Maine Legislature Passes Shield Law for Abortion and Transgender Procedures

Republicans warn it will lead to child trafficking and kidnapping, while advocates say it will protect what is already legal in Maine.
Maine Legislature Passes Shield Law for Abortion and Transgender Procedures
The Capitol building in Augusta, Maine, on July 29, 2023. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)
Alice Giordano

Maine may soon become a haven for women from other states looking to access late-term abortions and minors who want to undergo gender reassignment treatments and procedures.

Both chambers of the state Legislature have approved a so-called shield law in the New England state, and Gov. Janet Mills has already vowed to sign it. The House passed the bill on Wednesday along party lines in a vote of 80–70, and the Senate passed the bill on Thursday in another party line vote of 21–13, with one member absent.

The controversial legislation has been protested nationally by attorneys general from 16 states with laws that limit or ban minors from undergoing transgender medical treatments and procedures, such as puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and elective surgeries to appear more like the opposite sex.

Supporters of the bill say it will protect Maine doctors from prosecution in other states if they perform abortions on women from states where the procedure is illegal, or if they provide gender transition medications and procedures for minors who travel from other states with laws that prohibit such treatments and procedures for minors.

The shield created by the bill encompasses “noncustodial” adults, which Republican state Sen. Stacey Guerin said “recklessly shuts out” a child’s “most powerful advocate—their parents.”

She and other Republicans have emphatically warned the shield law will lead to legalized kidnapping and child trafficking.

“This bill opens children up to being trafficked or manipulated into situations they are not developmentally able to handle,” Republican state Rep. Katrina Smith told The Epoch Times just before the Senate voted on the bill.

Tiffany Kreck, co-founder of Health Choice Maine, told The Epoch Times that she feels the legislation makes a mockery of a state that has long been held as a symbol of patriotism and old-fashioned family values.

“This legislation is so absurd, you would think it’s all a joke,” said Ms. Kreck. “But there is no humor here, only the mockery theme out of Maine and our cherished history of being a sought out sanctuary where life was still slow and tight-knit communities were built on family values and exuded old New England charm.”

Abortion in Maine

Democrats have accused Republicans of spreading “disinformation” about the bill, saying all the shield law does is protect what is already legal in Maine.

“This bill is not about children, this is about protecting Maine health care workers,” said Democrat state Sen. Anne Carney during Thursday’s Senate floor debate on the bill.

Approval of the bill comes just a day after state lawmakers failed to approve a measure that would have enshrined abortion as a right in the Maine Constitution.

On Tuesday ahead of the shield law vote, Maine’s Democrat-dominated House voted 75–65 in favor of the proposal, but that was not enough to achieve the necessary two-thirds majority to make an amendment to the state constitution.

Maine has one of the least restrictive abortion laws in the country.

Abortions in Maine are legal until the point of fetal viability—when the baby can live outside of the womb—which is generally considered to be about six months, or 24 weeks, into the pregnancy. But last year, Democrats in the Legislature passed a bill to allow abortions beyond viability if a doctor deems it medically necessary.

Maine’s laws for transgender medical procedures are also broad. While Maine lawmakers last year passed a law setting 16 as the minimum age for gender reassignment surgery, Maine Queer Health states on its website that “Maine doesn’t have any specific laws about pediatric gender affirmative care specifically.”

Gender Policy

GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders—more commonly known as GLAD—released a joint statement with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, heralding the shield law as a way to “safeguard Maine’s healthcare infrastructure from hostile laws passed for political, not medical, purposes in other states.”

According to the statement, released by the groups following the House vote and ahead of the Senate vote, they received bomb threats and political attacks for their support of the shield law.

Polly Crozier, director of family advocacy for GLAD, thanked the bill’s main sponsor, Democrat state Rep. Anne Perry, for “championing” the bill. In March, Ms. Perry told the state Legislature’s Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee that she wished she didn’t live in a time when she had to bring such a bill forward.

“I wish we were not in this situation in the United States,” she said at the March hearing.

In an 11th hour move in the legislative process, Ms. Perry managed to get the bill before the health committee after the joint Judiciary Committee rejected it two months earlier.

The shield law bill has divided Maine’s law enforcement community, with Attorney General Aaron Frey among its fiercest advocates and the Maine Sheriff’s Association releasing a statement condemning it.

Religious groups such as the Christian Civic League of Maine have condemned the bill, while the Maine Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers lauded it.
Alice Giordano is a freelance reporter for The Epoch Times. She is a former news correspondent for The Boston Globe, Associated Press, and the New England bureau of The New York Times.