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Maine Abortion Laws

Abortion is legal in Maine until fetal viability. Thereafter, abortion is legal only when the physician finds it medically necessary under the appropriate standard of care.

Maine Abortion Law After Dobbs

In June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, ending the constitutional right to abortion. This decision returned to the states the power to regulate and even prohibit abortion. As a result, abortion laws vary greatly from state to state.

Maine's law permits abortions that occur before fetal viability. The term viability may have different meanings in a medical context. In statutes, it usually means when the fetus can survive outside the uterus, or 22-24 weeks into a pregnancy.

Expansion of Reproductive Privacy Laws

In 2023, Maine's state legislature passed a new law that expanded the right to abortions that occur post-viability. Gov. Janet Mills signed the "Act to Improve Maine's Reproductive Privacy Laws."

The law removed a limitation that only allowed post-viability abortions to preserve the life or health of the mother. Now, a licensed physician may perform a post-viability abortion when they determine it is medically necessary. Criminal penalties associated with most abortions were also removed.

Governor Mills cited the story of Dana Peirce, a Maine veterinarian, for her support of the new law. Peirce had to travel to Colorado to obtain an abortion when doctors identified that the fetus she carried had a fatal condition and was no longer viable 32 weeks into the pregnancy.

Efforts in Maine to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot protecting reproductive rights in 2024 have not met with success. Maine law requires a two-thirds vote from both the State House and the State Senate to send a ballot initiative to voters. Democratic lawmakers behind the effort have not overcome Republican efforts to block it at this time.

Informed Consent Requirements

Under Maine law, abortion providers must obtain informed consent from pregnant people before any abortion procedure goes forward. The law does not impose the mandatory waiting period found in some other states.

Maine aims to ensure that patients understand the risks associated with both abortion and carrying a pregnancy to term. When requested, service providers must disclose information about alternatives to abortion, including adoption.

Protection of Live Fetuses

Maine law continues to grant protections for the extremely rare instance of infants born alive during an abortion procedure. If an abortion results in a live birth (i.e. breathing or having a beating heart after extraction from the mother), the doctors must try to preserve the life and health of the baby.

If they don’t, they could be charged with a homicide crime or be civilly liable for wrongful death or medical malpractice.

State law also prohibits the sale or use of live but nonviable human fetuses for experimentation.

Conscience Shields and Non-Discrimination  

Like many other states, Maine provides protections for healthcare providers who choose not to engage in abortion services. A healthcare worker's decision not to assist with an abortion cannot be used to discriminate against them in employment or any professional association.

State law also provides them with immunity from civil lawsuits in such matters.

Summary of Abortion Laws in Maine

The following table identifies key provisions of Maine’s abortion laws.

Relevant Maine Abortion Laws

Maine Revised Statutes

Title 22, Chapter 263-B

When Is Abortion Legal?

Abortion is legal before fetal viability. Thereafter, abortion is legal only when the physician finds it medically necessary under the appropriate standard of care.

Consent Requirements

In all cases, the pregnant person seeking abortion care must provide voluntary, informed, and written consent. Informed consent requires that the health care professional provides the following information to the patient:

  • Confirmation of pregnancy
  • The number of weeks elapsed from the probable time of conception (age of fetus)
  • The risks associated with pregnancy and the abortion technique to be performed
  • At the woman's request, information on alternatives to abortion, such as childbirth, adoption, and agencies that provide assistance

For minors under 18 years of age, the healthcare professional must obtain the voluntary, informed, and written consent of the minor and one parent, guardian, or adult family member. In the alternative, a probate or district court judge can also approve a minor's consent at the request of the pregnant minor.

Penalty for Unlawful Abortion

The following penalties are available for conduct associated with an unlawful abortion:

  • Anyone assisting or performing an abortion on a minor in violation of the law may face charges for a Class D crime. Class D crimes are punishable by up to 364 days of incarceration, a fine of up to $2,000, or both.
  • A healthcare professional or counselor who fails to perform any action required under the minor consent law may face charges of a civil violation, including a fine of up to $1,000 for each violation.
  • Anyone engaging in the illegal sale or use of a live fetus may face charges for a Class C Crime. Class C crimes are punishable by up to five years of incarceration, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

Availability of Medication Abortion?

Yes. Medication abortion is available in Maine.


Residency Requirements for Patients

There are no residency requirements for abortion services in Maine.

Health Insurance Coverage for Abortion

In Maine, state-regulated major medical insurance plans and MaineCare (Medicaid) plans cover abortion services. There are limited exceptions related to religious employers' health insurance.

Physician Licensing Requirement

Licensed medical or osteopathic physicians, physician assistants, and advanced practice registered nurses can perform abortions in Maine.

Conscience Protections for Health Care Providers

A professional healthcare worker or hospital can refuse to perform abortions without being liable, losing their job, or receiving discipline for that refusal.

Note: State and federal laws change often. Court decisions may also have an impact on the law. Abortion law remains unsettled in many states. Contact a knowledgeable attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the status of any state laws you are reviewing.

How Maine Compares to Other States

Mainers have not seen increased abortion restrictions since the overturning of Roe. State lawmakers expanded its reproductive privacy laws to permit Maine women greater abortion access since Dobbs.

Maine abortion law aligns with the majority of states, including nearby Vermont and Massachusetts, that legalize abortion at least until viability. Since 2022, abortion rights advocates have sought to expand access in more states by placing ballot initiatives that allow voters to protect reproductive rights in state law.

In contrast, some 17 states have made abortion illegal under most circumstances. Some of these states, such as Texas, have near-total bans in place. Others like Georgia and South Carolina limit most abortions to the first six weeks of pregnancy. Given the inaccuracy of gestational age, this limit might hit before some women realize they're pregnant.

A Note About Medication Abortion

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the now common two-pill drug regimen used in medication abortion in 2000. Since that time, medication abortions have become the most common way to end a pregnancy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 53% of abortions occurring in 2021 involved medication abortion. A recent study by the Guttmacher Institute, reports that the number increased to 63% in 2023.

After Dobbs, residents of states with abortion bans have sought medication abortion out of state. Depending on state law, they may obtain abortion pills by telehealth services, through the mail, or by travel to a nearby state where abortion remains legal.

In Maine, abortion medication is a service provided through Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

Abortion opponents filed a challenge to the FDA's approval of mifepristone, one of the two drugs used in medication abortion, in 2022. They also contested decisions by the FDA in 2016 and 2021 to amend rules for prescribing and distributing the drug.

Several states where abortion remains legal filed a separate lawsuit seeking to maintain access to the medication.

The U.S. Supreme Court stayed lower court rulings and allowed the use of mifepristone to continue while the court cases went forward. It expects to issue a final decision in 2024.

Research the Law

Related Resources

Have More Questions About Abortion Law? Talk to a Lawyer

Abortion law changes are confusing to people with questions about their privacy rights during a pregnancy. If you believe someone has violated your reproductive health care rights in Maine, you should seek legal advice. Consider talking with an experienced healthcare attorney in Maine.

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