LD 1261

Testimony before the Joint Standing Committee on Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services An Act To Authorize Certain Health Care Professionals To Perform Abortions May 1, 2019

Senator Sanborn, Representative Tepler and Members of the Committee:

I am Rev. Jane Field, a resident of Portland (and your constituent, Senator Sanborn), and an ordained Presbyterian (PCUSA) minister. I am the Executive Director of the Maine Council of Churches testifying on behalf of our seven member-denominations (Episcopal, Lutheran (ELCA), Presbyterian (PCUSA), Quaker, Unitarian Universalist, United Methodist and United Church of Christ) who voted unanimously to support LD 1261.

I am likely not the only Christian you will hear from today. I respect the right of those Christians who oppose LD 1261 to be here representing their interpretation of Christianity. But their interpretation is not mine, nor is it that of the major mainline Protestant denominations who are members of the Council (and who represent 437 congregations and 55,000 members in Maine).

My own denomination has advocated for reproductive choice and justice since 1970, before Roe v. Wade, understanding the termination of a pregnancy to be a matter of a careful ethical decision by the patient that should not be restricted by law. We affirm the ability of women to make good moral choices and believe the decision to end a pregnancy can be such a choice.

Abortion is a complex health care and moral issue requiring nuanced medical, ethical and spiritual discernment in each unique situation. A wide diversity of experiences, opinions, and beliefs related to abortion exist among people of faith in all religious traditions—including the 55,000 church members in our denominations. But neither we, as “the Church,” nor you, as the government, have the wisdom or authority to decide what is best for a woman in an individual situation when she is considering abortion.

For the Maine Council of Churches, LD 1261 is primarily about health care justice. It is about ensuring that women throughout Maine – regardless of where they live or what their income is – have access to safe, quality care and scientifically sound counsel as they make crucial medical decisions that are protected by law.

The Maine Council of Churches supports LD 1261 because it would assure Maine’s women timely access to a legal medical procedure that is safe, closer to home, and less costly. It would reduce barriers of travel, child care, and work responsibilities that often force women to delay or forgo treatment. Women who already face systemic barriers to health care, those in rural areas and those with low incomes, would benefit most.

The State of Maine has said in court that there are strong public policy reasons to repeal the ban on APCs* providing abortion services, including making abortion care more accessible and less costly. We agree and urge you to vote “ought to pass” on LD 1261.