Home Part of States Newsroom
Maine joins growing list of states protecting healthcare providers from bans


Maine joins growing list of states protecting healthcare providers from bans

Apr 23, 2024 | 1:38 pm ET
By Emma Davis
Maine joins growing list of states protecting healthcare providers from bans
Twenty-two states and Washington, D.C. have passed shield laws protecting abortion and eleven of those states and D.C. also have protections specifically for gender-affirming care. (Astrid Riecken/Getty Images)

Maine will have a “shield law” that protects the state’s health professionals who provide reproductive and gender-affirming care from being targeted by other states’ bans starting mid-July. 

On Tuesday, Gov. Janet Mills signed LD 227 into law, placing Maine among the dozen or so other states that have enacted shield laws regarding abortion and gender-affirming care. An additional dozen have such protections solely for abortion. 

Maine’s shield law and those in other states where Democrats are in power come as many Republican-led states have sought to curb access to reproductive care following the overturning of federal abortion rights in 2022. Abortion is either banned or restricted earlier in pregnancy than the standard set by Roe v. Wade in at least 21 states, and 22 states have laws or policies banning gender-affirming care despite it being supported by every major medical association. 

Conservative groups, lawmakers accused of spreading disinformation about proposed shield law

“Maine’s lawmakers have shown again that they are steadfast in their ability to withstand the pressures from a loud minority of voices, who unfortunately use ugly rhetoric to push their out-of-touch agenda, and stand up for our personal freedoms and bodily autonomy,” said Gia Drew, executive director of EqualityMaine. 

LD 227 spurred some of the lengthiest floor debates this session, largely about what the shield law would and would not allow. In particular, conservative lawmakers and groups circulated false claims dismissed by legal authorities that the bill would permit kidnapping and trafficking. 

The bill sponsors and Capitol building also received a bomb threat, ultimately deemed a hoax, linked to the legislation. 

Shortly after, 16 Republican state Attorneys General also threatened to sue the state of Maine if it passed LD 227, calling the measure unconstitutional. Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey dismissed the claims as “meritless” and an attempt to intimidate proponents of LD 227.

“The patterns of violence, threats, and extremism that accompanied the work around LD 227 point to why this bill was so essential,” said Destie Hohman Sprague, executive director of the Maine Women’s Lobby.

Maine’s shield law builds on other safeguards the state has enacted following the overturn of Roe v. Wade, including an executive order from Mills in 2022 that ensures that clinicians who treat patients coming from states where abortion is banned won’t be penalized for providing care. 

Our state sends a clear message with LD 227: Maine remains a safe harbor for sexual and reproductive health care, for providers and the patients they serve,” said Lisa Margulies, vice president of public affairs at Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund.

Last session, the Legislature also narrowly passed a bill in a mostly party line vote to allow abortions at any time during pregnancy if deemed medically necessary by a doctor, which legislators brought up during floor discussion of LD 227. Earlier this month, the Maine House of Representatives censured Rep. Michael Lemelin (R-Chelsea), who implied that the Legislature’s enactment of that law caused the Oct. 25 mass shooting in Lewiston by invoking God’s wrath, and Rep. Shelley Rudnicki (R-Fairfield), who said she agreed. 

Maine House censures two GOP members for blaming mass shooting on abortion law

Another attempt to provide more permanent protections for reproductive healthcare, including abortion, in Maine failed this session. A bill to enshrine reproductive autonomy into the state’s Constitution, LD 780, failed to garner the level of support needed to get on the ballot in November. 

Beyond Maine, President Joe Biden’s administration issued a new rule on Monday to support reproductive healthcare privacy by strengthening the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Under the rule, disclosing protected health information related to reproductive health care is prohibited. 

“Many Americans are scared their private medical information will be being shared, misused, and disclosed without permission,” said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “This has a chilling effect on women visiting a doctor, picking up a prescription from a pharmacy, or taking other necessary actions to support their health.” 

Becerra said the new rule will provide “stronger protections to people seeking lawful reproductive health care regardless of whether the care is in their home state or if they must cross state lines to get it. With reproductive health under attack by some lawmakers, these protections are more important than ever.”