A version of this article was originally published in The Daily Brief, our Maine politics newsletter. Sign up here for daily news and insight from politics editor Michael Shepherd.
An emotional set of hearings on abortion policy is set to make Monday a late one at the State House, while lines were long ahead of testimony on the biggest proposal on the subject from Gov. Janet Mills and her fellow Democrats in the Legislature.
It would allow doctors to perform abortions after Maine’s current viability cutoff — around 24 weeks into pregnancy — if they deem the procedure necessary. It is targeted at rare situations in which fetal anomalies are discovered late in pregnancies. Maine’s permissive set of abortion laws only allows post-viability abortions if the life or health of the mother is in danger.
The context: This measure marked a reversal from the governor, who built her 2022 campaign against former Gov. Paul LePage largely on her pro-abortion rights record after the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision overturning Roe v. Wade, ending nationwide abortion rights.
But she also said then that she did not want to expand abortion access provisions, calling Maine’s current laws sufficient. That has been one of the key points in the anti-abortion attacks on Mills’ measure, which was called “radical and extreme” in January by Maine’s Catholic bishop in a rare rebuke of a big-name politician.
Republicans have taken to saying this measure would allow abortion up to birth, although abortions past 20 weeks are rare. Maine saw none in 2021, for example. Some doctors have said the measure would allow them to alleviate rare and heartbreaking cases for mothers.
Here’s the scene: Those on both sides of Maine’s abortion divide held news conferences and other events at the State House on Monday, with Mills joining Planned Parenthood and other proponents of the bills. Anti-abortion advocates were also flooding the halls.
A clerk expecting a 12 p.m. hearing in front of the Judiciary Committee to begin with a few hours of testimony from proponents followed by several hours more from opponents. It is going to be a long day in the State House. Other abortion bills were being heard by the insurance panel on Monday, with Republican anti-abortion measures on tap for Friday hearings.
What they’re saying: “Mainers value their reproductive rights and freedoms, and they want these decisions to be made by a health care provider and their patient,” Nicole Clegg, acting CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, an abortion provider and abortion-rights advocacy group, said in a statement. “They don’t want certain politicians forcing people to continue a pregnancy against medical advice.”
“Instead of abortion, mothers and fathers in circumstances involving a fatal diagnosis for their unborn child should be given options such as perinatal hospice and grief counseling,” former state Rep. Karen Vachon, R-Scarborough, the executive director of the anti-abortion Maine Right to Life, said in a statement.
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