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When Paul LePage was governor, he had the time to go to abortion rallies each year. At the 2016 one, LePage proclaimed bluntly “We should not have abortion.”
And when Bruce Poliquin ran for office 10 years ago, he was straightforward in strongly opposing women’s right to choose abortion, declaring “that when one mom and one dad get together with the help of God and they create a new life nobody, nobody has the right to end that life before its natural conclusion.”
Poliquin’s and LePage’s statements are consistent with the Maine GOP’s platform, which says life starts at conception. And for years the Maine Republican Party has relied on the votes, dollars and volunteer energy of anti-abortion groups and voters.
In 2014, the head of the Christian Civic League said Poliquin won his congressional primary against Kevin Raye because of Poliquin’s “unprecedented and unapologetic” outreach to “evangelical leadership” and his abortion stance.
But a funny thing happened when the Republican Party got what it sought — the end of a national right to choose.
Both LePage and Poliquin still say they’re pro-life but LePage now proclaims “I don’t think a governor should take a position on a social issue.” He also asserts abortion affects “few” Mainers, which is insulting to those who strongly support or oppose reproductive rights. It also ignores the very real ways access to legal abortion affects women’s ability to thrive economically, which were described in detail in a brief by dozens of economists to the Supreme Court. And LePage still won’t say what abortion restrictions he’d sign into law.
Poliquin is also ducking and weaving. In 2014, Poliquin told the National Pro-Life Alliance he would vote for a constitutional amendment banning virtually all abortions (in a questionnaire that somehow disappeared from its website last week). Then recently he’s said he backs letting states decide what rights women have. Anti-choice advocates and legislators want to pass a federal ban on abortion next year but Poliquin has evaded saying if he’d vote for one.
What LePage and Poliquin are doing is no accident. The Maine GOP acknowledged their strategy in an email to candidates calling abortion an issue Democrats would use to “distract the media” from issues like gas prices, which are up all over the world.
In a different category is the putatively pro-choice Sen. Susan Collins, who has tried to evade her responsibility for putting anti-choice justices on the Supreme Court. Her main claim is that she was “misled” by Brett Kavanagh in 2018. Essentially she is presenting herself as a gullible victim of a slick-talking lawyer.
But during the Kavanaugh confirmation process, when Sen. Angus King observed that “saying Roe v. Wade is a precedent, for example, (which he said repeatedly) is a statement of fact, but provides no insight whatsoever into whether Judge Kavanaugh thinks it was properly decided or should be repealed or modified,” Collins asserted that Kavaugh’s pronouncements on precedents made her confident he would not overturn Roe.
In fact, as Collins noted in announcing her support for Kavanaugh, he told her that long-standing precedents could be overturned sometimes, including when the decision was “grievously wrong.” In overturning Roe, he called the 1973 decision “egregiously wrong” and there was evidence prior to the confirmation process Kavanaugh saw Roe that way.
Collins should admit that she should have listened to Angus King and others and not try to duck accountability. And she should back policies to mitigate or, better yet, reverse the Supreme Court’s decision.
As for this year’s elections, some might not be bothered by prominent Maine Republicans attempting to run on issues the government has little control over while sidelining abortion, which can be nixed or protected by elected officials.
After all, we know Janet Mills and Jared Golden support protecting women’s reproductive freedom and LePage and Poliquin oppose legal abortion.
But, besides what it says about the character of candidates who are evasive in campaigns, specifics on abortion policy matter and ducking abortion as an issue does a disservice to the voters to whom elected officials are accountable.