Eight women in Maine have been treated for complications related to female genital mutilation (FGM), including two minors, according to 2016 MaineCare records.
We know that FGM has been treated here in the state of Maine because I have the MaineCare billing codes and information to prove it.
Local FGM legislation has been introduced in states across the country, and in Maine it was presented by State Representative Heather Sirocki. Her bill would make it a Class B crime to perform FGM on a female under 18 years of age for non-medical purposes or for a parent, guardian, or caretaker to allow FGM to be done on a girl in their custody.
State Rep. Sirocki said, "We know that FGM has been treated here in the state of Maine because I have the MaineCare billing codes and information to prove it."
The bill, LD745 “An Act to Prohibit Female Genital Mutilation,” had six amendments submitted from the state House and Senate, but ultimately failed in a 74-73 vote on June 23.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Maine said FGM legislation is not worth expanding the criminal code. They released a statement saying, “This bill is nothing more than an attempt to single out behavior that is commonly attributed to certain religious and ethnic communities as different from other forms of abuse."
“Opposition has to do more with questioning my character, the character of some of the people supporting the bill, and our intentions and motivations as being related to a hate bill,” Sirocki said. “I would say to them they are correct – I hate child abuse. So if that’s their angle, I take issue with that, and would again strongly state that little girls are being horribly abused under the name of a cultural tradition that we do not support here in this country.”
"We believe FGM is a serious problem in Maine but believe that the solutions are not as straight forward as those proposed in the bill," said Cara Courchesne, the Communications Director with the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault in a statement.
"Currently, many legal experts believe that FGM is already illegal in Maine, under the broader heading of aggravated assault (Aggravated Assault: "Bodily injury to another that causes serious, permanent disfigurement or loss or substantial impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.')"
There has been a larger focus on FGM since three medical professionals were arrested in Michigan for performing FGM on little girls, some of whom were brought to Michigan from Minnesota. This was the first instance where federal files were charged relating to FGM being performed on a child, and it sparked awareness across the country. Wednesday, two mothers in Michigan were charged with FGM conspiracy and FGM.
Federal legislation was passed making FGM illegal in 1997 and 24 states have passed local legislation to supplement the federal law. Since the case in Michigan, many states including Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, and Maine have introduced state legislation to either strengthen their local laws, or protect young girls from parents or guardians in favor of FGM, and the people performing the procedure.
To the people of Maine, if it’s not happening that’s great – and we’d like to send a message that we don’t want it to ever happen.
"If it is happening, we want it to stop. And we want to send that clear message that we do not do that here in this country,” Sirocki said.
The Maine Prosecutors Association came out strongly in favor of this bill, to clarify and specifically identify this as a crime, with a clear level of crime attributed to both the person doing the cutting as well as the parents who are accomplices.
Originally seen as a developing world problem, the recent case in Michigan brought attention that FGM is happening in many communities across the United States. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health (OWH) dedicated part of a more than $6 million grant to the Maine Access Immigrant Network in Portland and Lewiston, Maine.
“Female Genital Cutting comes with real physical, emotional and psychosocial costs for women and girls in communities throughout our nation,” said Karen B. DeSalvo, M.D., acting assistant secretary for health. “These awards represent an important step forward in our fight to end Female Genital Cutting.”
State Rep. Sirocki said she plans to continue fighting for FGM legislation in Maine.