Maryland law expanding who can perform abortion goes into effect
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A Maryland law taking effect Friday will allow nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and physician assistants who receive special training to perform abortions, as some states seek to expand access to the procedure after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Healthcare professionals other than trained doctors can start performing abortions on Friday, although it’s unclear how many will be immediately eligible. Delaware, Connecticut and Washington also enacted laws this year allowing non-physician clinicians to perform abortions.
Dr. Kyle Bukowski, Chief Medical Officer of Planned Parenthood of Maryland, trains nonphysician clinicians to perform safe abortions in Maryland. Bukowski, who also received such training in California, believes abortion access is one of the most important jobs he has done as a doctor.
“It seems so important,” said the board-certified OB/GYN, who also delivers babies. “It’s the difference between them finishing school or not; whether or not to leave an abusive relationship; being able to take care of your children or not, keep your job or not, and being able to fully empower someone is probably the most important job you can do as a doctor or healthcare provider.
The High Court ruling last week sparked a wave of courthouse actions as conservative-leaning states seek to ban or restrict the procedure. But other states have sought to expand access, and advocates say more providers are needed in areas likely to see an influx of patients crossing state lines.
“When you’re talking about 26 states losing access, 36 million women losing access, that’s going to expand, and so everyone’s on the hook,” said Karen Nelson, president of Planned Parenthood of Maryland.
Delaware Gov. John Carney, a Democrat, signed legislation Wednesday allowing physician assistants, certified nurse practitioners and nurse midwives to perform pre-viability abortions. The measure includes various legal protections for abortion providers and patients, including out-of-state residents who have abortions in Delaware.
Fourteen states — California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington — now allow non-doctors to perform abortions, Elizabeth Nash said, state policy analyst. for the Guttmacher Institute in New York, a think tank that supports abortion rights.
“It’s been a long time since states have recognized that one, for so long, the number of abortion providers is declining, and that we need to better ensure access to care, especially as we see states banning abortion “, said Nash.
Supporters of the Maryland law say the state could see an influx of patients due to its proximity to southern states that are expected to restrict abortion access.
“I think we’re in a very unique place,” Nelson said. “Some people say we’re the most accessible state in the south, and some people call us the most northerly state in the south, and the I-95 corridor creates a kind of pipeline here.”
Earlier this year, as Maryland lawmakers were reviewing the legislation, abortion providers were already seeing patients in Texas seeking alternatives because of the ban there, Nelson said.
Maryland’s law was passed in part in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe and to increase access in rural parts of the state that don’t have providers.
“We passed the bill this year in Maryland after no legislation advancing abortion rights for 30 years, because sadly we expected this day to come,” Del said. Ariana Kelly, a Democrat who sponsored the measure.
To enact the law, Democrats who control the Maryland General Assembly overruled a veto by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.
Hogan, in his veto letter to lawmakers, wrote that the measure “risks lowering the high standard of reproductive health care services received by women in Maryland.”
“Unlike nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, physician assistants, and licensed certified midwives, physicians are uniquely qualified to perform these procedures and resolve any medical complications should they arise,” Hogan wrote.
Maryland law also requires that $3.5 million in state funding be allocated annually beginning in fiscal year 2024 for training. Hogan refused to release money set aside by lawmakers to provide so much for training in the fiscal year beginning Friday.
Bukowski disagrees that the new law risks reducing reproductive health care services.
“As long as they’re trained to do it, they can do it safely,” Bukowski said.