Progressive nightmare

By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  March 16, 2011

• An as-yet-unnumbered bill that would require PARENTAL NOTIFICATION before an abortion could be performed on a minor, a step beyond Maine's existing law, which states that if a girl under 18 cannot talk to her parents about her pregnancy, she may seek the involvement of another adult, such as a trusted family member, a minister, or a counselor. While similar legislation has failed in the past in Maine, Representative Dale Crafts, the Lisbon Republican who is sponsoring this bill, told the Bangor Daily News that he is "confident it will pass this time."

• The fourth bill, which is also so far un-named and -numbered, is similar to one proposed in 2005. It would create a new class of crime in situations where a fetus is harmed or killed in the course of a violent attack against a pregnant woman. "The concern is that these types of laws convey legal status to the fetus," Brogan says. So-called "FETAL PERSONHOOD" bills are up for debate across the country. Of the one in Georgia, conservative Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said: "The Georgia Personhood Amendment is a reflection of a growing pro-life sentiment across the country."

• LD 31 would require consent from a legal guardian to prescribe medicines to minors. "It would eliminate MINORS' ACCESS TO CONTRACEPTIVES" and medications for sexually transmitted infections, Brogan says. "It would be an enormous step back in lowering teen-pregnancy rates," which are relatively low in Maine.

• As would be, one assumes, the bill that would require parents to opt in to COMPREHENSIVE SEX-ED classes, as opposed to opting out, the current norm.

"This isn't why voters sent their legislators to Augusta this year," Brogan says. "We don't think any legislator was elected based on their position on choice."

And these bills are all on top of state and federal cuts to Planned Parenthood and family-planning clinics.Social Services

Paul LePage made welfare reform a focus of his gubernatorial campaign, and so his budget proposals — including changes to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and General Assistance programs, and cuts to health-care programs for low-income families and seniors — came as little surprise to those who advocate for Maine's safety nets.

"We agree that there are ways to make these programs more effective," says Sara Gagné-Holmes, executive director of Maine Equal Justice Partners, a non-profit that provides legal aid and research around poverty. "What did surprise me was how mean-spirited some of [the changes and cuts] seem to be."

She cites the proposal that would require any parent convicted of a drug felony to show proof of ongoing DRUG TESTING IN ORDER TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR TANF (a positive test result would cause immediate termination of assistance for the entire family, and the parent would have to pay for the testing themselves). Substance-abuse programs are simultaneously being cut (see "Those In Need Speak," page 5).

Of this provision, Gagné-Holmes says: "You're not balancing the budget on this — you're causing harm."

She also criticizes the reduction in eligibility for MAINECARE for working people whose income may fluctuate over the course of the year (due to seasonal work or overtime), and the proposed (four percent) increase in MaineCare premiums, which MEJP claims would "result in people foregoing necessary medical care."

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