Earlier this year, the State Legislature passed one of the least restrictive abortion laws in the nation — as of today, that law is now officially in effect.
Signed by Gov. Janet Mills (D) on July 17, LD 1619 dramatically expanded access to late-term abortion in Maine by allowing women to abort their baby “after viability” if it is deemed “necessary in the professional judgment of a physician.”
This language replaced a provision prohibiting abortion after the point of viability except in cases where the life or health of the mother was in jeopardy.
LD 1619 was the product of a long and protracted legislative battle marked by large demonstrations at the State House and controversial procedural decisions.
Mills’ support of the new abortion law may have come as a surprise to many voters given that the governor stated multiple times on the campaign trail — including during a gubernatorial debate — that she had no intention of changing Maine’s abortion-related regulations.
She specifically told voters that she had no plans to alter the 24-week viability threshold that had limited abortion in Maine for thirty years up to that point.
During the signing ceremony, Gov. Mills referenced the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade as having caused “nearly one-third of all American women [to] no longer have access to abortion.”
“It’s easy to believe that these attacks on reproductive rights only exist beyond our state’s borders, that here in Maine these rights are safe and protected. But this session alone, this legislative session alone, Republican lawmakers in Maine introduced bills to restrict reproductive by enforcing ultrasounds, by mandating biased counseling, by taking away insurance coverage for low-income people especially, and by restricting access to abortion for rural women,” Mills said.
“We, this year, have turned back these attempts to undermine reproductive rights in Maine, and instead, we have preserved and expanded reproductive freedom in Maine,” Mills said, referring to the passage of LD 1619.
“By signing LD 1619, ‘An Act to Improve Maine’s Reproductive Privacy Laws,’ we are affirming that Maine people, guided by their medical professionals, their families, their personal and spiritual beliefs, that they will make decisions about their reproductive health care,” she said.
Mills then argued that the state’s preexisting restrictions on late-term abortion — which she herself had previously committed to upholding — failed to address the realities faced by women in Maine.
“Current Maine law allows for abortion later in pregnancy only to preserve the life or health of the mother, but this standard – that we are about to change – fails to address the varied and very difficult circumstances faced by some women in their pregnancies,” Mills stated.
After Gov. Mills signed LD 1619 into law over the summer, a Maine-based pro-life group run by Rep. Laurel Libby (R-Auburn) — Speak Up For Life — considered pursuing what is known as a “People’s Veto” in a last effort to stop the controversial law from going into effect.
In Maine, a People’s Veto is a process that allows citizens to use “the initiative and referendum process to repeal a piece of legislation passed by the legislature.”
In order to repeal a piece of legislation in this manner, a petition must be submitted within 90 days of the legislature’s adjournment.
Ultimately, Speak Up For Life decided not to pursue a People’s Veto, but rather to direct their resources toward helping elect pro-life candidates.
Consequently, the implementation timeline for LD 1619 moved forward unchanged.
Currently, only six other states – including Alaska, Colorado, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Vermont – and Washington, D.C. have similar laws on books allowing doctors, without restriction, to authorize abortions at any point during a pregnancy.