Former Gov. Paul LePage stopped at the Holden Police Department to meet law enforcement officers and supporters on Friday, July 1, 2022. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

HOLDEN, Maine — Former Gov. Paul LePage said on Friday he had “no reason” to challenge Maine’s expansive abortion laws but declined to say how he would deal with restrictive legislation if it crosses his desk next year.

The former Republican governor is challenging Gov. Janet Mills this year in one of the nation’s biggest governor’s races. Abortion has emerged as a point of difference between Mills and LePage after the U.S. Supreme Court last week overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision leaving the question of whether to keep abortion legal up to lawmakers.

Mills, a Democrat, has vowed to protect Maine’s liberal abortion laws. But conservatives empowered by the high court’s ruling have also indicated they would like to pare back access to abortion here, at least by repealing some of Mills’ signature legislation from early in her tenure, such as a law that allows state funds to cover abortions for women on Medicaid.

LePage attended anti-abortion gatherings while serving two terms in the Blaine House but did not sign significant legislation on the issue during his tenure as governor, including when Republicans held a trifecta in Augusta in 2011 and 2012.

But the end of Roe v. Wade has changed the landscape for what conservatives could pursue if they wanted to and had more political power here. Asked at a Friday event at the Holden Police Department whether LePage would consider signing a 15-week abortion ban similar to the one in Mississippi at the center of the recent Supreme Court case, the former governor dismissed the question as a hypothetical.

He noted that the abortion protections of Roe v. Wade were codified into Maine law in 1993 and said he had “no reason whatsoever to challenge that,” saying Mills has been discussing abortion “because she has been an absolute disaster in economics, in schools, in hospitals, in the nursing homes, in policing.”

Asked whether voters could be assured that LePage would not touch abortion protections in Maine if he wins in November, the former Republican governor said he “didn’t say that.”

“The governor can’t do anything without bills passed by the Legislature and you’re putting out hypotheticals that are really unfair,” he said.

Maine Democratic Party Chair Drew Gattine contested LePage’s challenge that Democrats were talking about abortion to distract from other issues, noting the party “didn’t choose to strike down Roe v. Wade.”

“Governor Mills has joined thousands of Mainers in the streets to make clear that we won’t let Paul LePage and his far-right allies implement their anti-abortion agenda in Maine,” he said.

Kathleen O'Brien is a reporter covering the Bangor area. Born and raised in Portland, she joined the Bangor Daily News in 2022 after working as a Bath-area reporter at The Times Record. She graduated from...