Maine expanded abortion access up for debate, passage likely

May 1, 2023, 9:39 AM | Updated: 11:42 am

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A proposal that would give Maine one of the least restrictive abortion laws in the country came up for debate Monday while passage seemed all but assured because of Democratic control of the state’s legislature.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills has proposed changing the state’s standard to permit women to get abortions later in pregnancy. If the proposal passes, state law would change to allow abortion after fetal viability if it’s deemed necessary by a physician.

Maine’s current laws allow abortions until a fetus becomes viable, which is generally considered to be around 24 weeks. The proposal faced a well-attended public hearing before a committee of the Maine Legislature on Monday.

The governor’s proposal arrived as Republican-controlled states around the country are headed in the opposite direction on abortion access. Not all attempts at tightening abortion laws have succeeded, however, as abortion bans in Nebraska and South Carolina fell short of advancing last week.

Maine Democrats are unlikely to have such trouble expanding access. There were enough co-sponsors on Mills’ bill to ensure a majority.

“Mainers value their reproductive rights and freedoms, and they want these decisions to be made by a health care provider and their patient,” said Nicole Clegg, acting chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. “They don’t want certain politicians forcing people to continue a pregnancy against medical advice.”

Despite the likelihood of passage, many Republicans in the state have strongly opposed the bill, and opponents of abortion attended Monday’s hearing to make clear they don’t support it.

The Christian Civic League of Maine, an organization that staunchly opposes abortion, sent an email to its supporters asking them to “prayerfully consider joining us” at the hearing.

“What are you willing to do to be a voice for those who do not have a voice? To what level of sacrifice will you commit in advocacy for the sanctity of life? What inconvenience will you abide to be present to counter the spiritual forces in our capitol tomorrow?” the email asked supporters.

Other changes Democrats have proposed to Maine’s abortion laws include increasing the privacy for people seeking an abortion and eliminating insurance copays. The state already had a fairly unrestrictive set of laws regarding abortion, and Mills successfully ran for reelection in 2022 on a promise of protecting and expanding them.

Maine is one of many states that has become a testing ground for new abortion laws since the Supreme Court took away constitutional protections for abortion last June.

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Maine expanded abortion access up for debate, passage likely