Democratic lawmakers have yet to move forward with Gov. Janet Mills’ signature second-term bill to eliminate all restrictions on late-term abortion despite signalling early in the session that the bill, LD 1619, was a top priority.
Why the delay?
“It’s simple: they don’t have the votes,” Carroll Conley, director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, said Tuesday morning on WVOM’s George Hale and Ric Tyler Show.
Conley said there were seven or eight Democrats who never signed on as sponsors for the bill and even more who signed up as sponsors before they learned how extreme it really was, though he didn’t name names.
Listen to Conley’s interview here:
On the 2022 campaign trail, Gov. Mills said several times that she would not support any attempt to change Maine’s laws concerning late-abortion, stating specifically that she would not advocate changing Maine’s three-decade old 24-week viability threshold.
However, less than two months after winning re-election, Mills introduced a governor’s bill that would eliminate all current restrictions on abortion in the state of Maine. The bill would also expand the class of medical professional who are allowed to perform late-term abortions to include physicians assistants and advanced registered nurses.
When the bill was introduced, more than 70 lawmakers joined as co-sponsors. That’s an unusually high number of co-sponsors for any piece of legislation, and the broad support from Democratic lawmakers created a sense of inevitability around the bill.
That all changed on May 1 when more than 1,500 pro-life Mainers turned out to testify in opposition to the bill at the public hearing before the Judiciary Committee.
Beginning the afternoon of May 1, the hearing stretched past sunrise on May 2 and well into the morning, even as Judiciary co-chairs Sen. Anne Carney (D-Cumberland) and Rep. Matt Moonen (D-Portland) reduced testimony time limits for pro-lifers.
“We have seen hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of Mainers speak up on this issue, really loudly, at the public hearing, and since,” said Rep. Libby.
“I don’t know where the Democrats are, but they really should listen to that,” Libby said. “This is a bill that’s garnered more opposition than has ever been seen before, historically. And that’s verified with the Law Library.”
Libby attributed the massive turnout at the first public hearing to organized efforts to teach grassroots activists how they can get involved in the legislative process.
“Our goal with Speak Up for Life was to equip and empower Maine people,” she said. “And their response has been to take that education and run with it.”
Democrats have been mum about their plans for proceeding with the bill since the spectacle of the hearing.
Meantime, the marathon session of testimonies is now something of folklore for Maine’s merry band of pro-life activists.
As they prepared to overnight at the State House, the citizen activists played guitar, ate chocolate covered coffee beans, and found community and joy in the face of a political majority that appears really committed to legalizing abortion for any reason at any point during a pregnancy. Since the public hearing, they’ve kept a watchful eye on politics in Augusta, waiting for the next opportunity to advocate for protecting unborn life.
The current legislative session is expected to adjourn before the end of the month, and State House sources have told the Maine Wire that Democratic leaders may schedule the work session for LD 1619 next week.
The outcome of that work session will reveal whether Democrats will attempt to pass a less radical version of the late-term abortion that maintains some restrictions on the procedure.
The report or reports that emerge will be sent for a vote in the House of Representatives.
If pro-abortion Democrats are struggling to unify their caucus around LD 1619, as pro-lifers suspect, then that would represent a big change considering early confidence displayed by the bill’s supporters even after the public hearing.
The liberal Maine Women’s Lobby told supporters in a May 8 email that passage of the bill was “in the bag.”