At least 1,000 people protest on the steps of Portland City Hall on Friday, June 24, 2022, after the U.S. Supreme court overturned Roe v. Wade. Protestors called for universal abortion access. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on

After Roe v. Wade was overturned, it was an open question how tossing this nearly half-century precedent would matter for American politics. Perhaps nixing abortion rights would fade as emerging events garnered people’s attention.

But it never seemed likely to me that women would stop caring about losing a fundamental right — and that’s because of how the prospect of being pregnant is a fundamental part of women’s lives.

Each and every month, every woman who is sexually active and can get pregnant pays attention to her fertility. Whether a woman tracks her menstrual cycles in an app or notebook or doesn’t actively monitor them, thinking about a potential pregnancy is unerringly ordinary.

This experience every month for decades makes it impossible to forget the experience of paying attention to the possibility of pregnancy.

Since the court’s decision, I’ve mentioned this aspect of women’s lives to various people.

Some men seemed to find it embarrassing to mention menstruation. Other men remarked they had never considered this dynamic.

But the women I spoke with immediately recognized what I was talking about. Sometimes they extended it to also regularly thinking about the possibility of someone else, often a daughter, getting pregnant.

Whether or not one wants to be pregnant, finding out if that’s happened is very important.

In the best circumstances, being pregnant with a wanted child is both a joyous occasion and something that requires all sorts of adjustments. Someone will need to care for a new baby, requiring some combination of paying for child care or staying home and likely earning less. One’s body will change and there are medical risks.

And of course some pregnancies are not wanted. Sometimes it would be unaffordable to have a child then or it would interfere with getting the training or education needed to earn a better living. As we know, being forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy hurts women economically.

While majorities of men and women are pro-choice, polling shows women and younger people support legal abortion the most.

And so it should not be surprising that women are registering to vote in large numbers and it matters. As election analyst Tom Bonier recently reported, “The surge in women registering and voting helped the Democrat Pat Ryan prevail over Marc Molinaro — one of the more credible Republican recruits this cycle — in New York’s fiercely contested 19th Congressional District last month.”

Since Roe v. Wade was overturned, abortion has become a top issue among voters.  Democrats’ interest in voting has spiked, contrary to the typical pattern in midterm elections when voters from the party that controls the White House are less enthusiastic. 

Abortion matters in federal elections because Congress could pass a federal ban or protect abortion. Post-Roe, governors and state legislators can ban or severely restrict choice.

Whoever wins the Maine governorship has many tools to protect or limit women’s reproductive rights — not only through legislation but also via executive orders and the budget.

The purportedly straightforward Paul LePage, who’s long opposed legal abortion, has been somewhat evasive. Responding to a questionnaire from the Maine Christian Civil League, LePage agreed that “access to abortion” should “be restricted” and hasn’t ruled out adopting new restrictions if he wins but he’s also said “I don’t have time for abortion.”

That’s similar to Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who held a fundraiser for LePage last week. When he ran, Youngkin sidestepped his opposition to legal abortion, telling a man at a fundraiser that his anti-choice position “won’t win my independent votes that I have to get.” After the abortion decision, Youngkin told anti-choice activists “Any bill that comes to my desk I will sign happily and gleefully.”

In contrast, Gov. Janet Mills is a stalwart champion of reproductive rights who expanded  access  to abortion.

Of course abortion isn’t the sole issue this year, nor the top concern for many voters. Still, Maine women will approach Election Day having had month after month pondering the impacts of pregnancy on themselves and others they love, and that unforgettable experience will affect their votes.

Avatar photo

Amy Fried, Opinion columnist

Amy Fried has written about the media and politics, women in politics, Maine and American political culture, and political activism, and works to create change through the Rising Tide Center. A political...