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Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, is the Maine Senate majority leader. Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick, is the assistant Senate majority leader.
Across Maine and the country, people have been joining in demonstrations, protests and days of action to protect our right to reproductive freedom. For some, it’s their first time carrying a sign or gathering for a protest. But for many of us, it’s a battle we’ve been fighting for a long time. The recently leaked Supreme Court draft decision that would repeal Roe v. Wade came as a gut punch. But more than that, it’s a wake-up call and a call to action.
The right to control our own bodies is fundamental to our ability to lead full lives, as full, equal members of society. A major part of that is, of course, access to reproductive health care — including abortion care. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said of the draft ruling, “I believe that eliminating the right of women to make decisions about when and whether to have children would have very damaging effects on the economy and would set women back decades.” Yellen went on to point out what generations of women have learned: Access to abortion allows women to finish their education, pursue fulfilling careers and start families on their own terms, which in turn helps the financial stability of their family.
Beyond this, abortion is, at its core, a matter of a personal medical decision. Sometimes the decision to seek an abortion is made especially difficult — the result of trauma, abuse, sexual assault or a medical emergency. Regardless of the reasons leading up to it, the decision to get an abortion should be made between the patient and their trusted medical provider. It’s not a decision that should be made for them by politicians — whether they’re in D.C. or Augusta.
The reality is that banning abortion doesn’t prevent people from getting abortions — it just prevents them from getting safe abortions. Before Roe v. Wade, women had to go underground and risk their lives to get an abortion. People with financial means will always be able to access abortions, if they need or want one. Banning legal abortions will disproportionately impact low-income people and people of color, worsening economic, racial and societal divides.
There are so many factors that go into decisions that people make about their health and their family’s health. How much money they make, where they work or where they live should not be deciding factors for the kind of care they receive. That’s why, as legislators, we’ve made it our priority to support bills that help all Mainers get access to quality, affordable health care, including reproductive health care.
Over the past few years, we’ve passed laws to expand coverage of abortion services, so more people in our state have access to this vital care; we also expanded which medical providers can offer abortion care, so Mainers can work with a trusted provider, right in their community. We also passed laws to ensure insurance companies cover services provided by certified midwives, and the full cost of all FDA-approved birth control options.
We didn’t stop there. This year, we also passed laws to ensure insurance companies cover fertility care, to help couples who are trying to start a family, and cover comprehensive postpartum care, keeping with modern best practices. And because we know reproductive freedom and family planning extend far beyond the doctor’s office, we both voted in favor of Maine’s first-in-the-nation earned paid leave policy in 2019, and right now, we’re working on implementing a statewide paid family and medical leave policy.
We’re extremely proud of the work we’ve accomplished in the Maine Legislature, but it’s now become crystal clear that our work isn’t done. In the State House and beyond, we’ll keep fighting, until the right to reproductive freedom is respected and protected, in Maine and across the nation. And we will continue our work to ensure all Mainers — regardless of their gender, age, income or race — have access to affordable health care and are supported by family-forward policies when and if they decide to start a family of their own.