On Monday, January 22, lawmakers on the Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing for a proposed amendment to Maine’s constitution that would enshrine a right to abortion in the state.
As currently drafted, the proposed amendment would guarantee that “every person has a right to personal reproductive autonomy” and would prohibit the state from “deny[ing] or infring[ing]” upon that right.
The bill proposing the amendment — LD 780, sponsored by Sen. Eloise Vitelli (D-Sagadahoc) — was introduced during the 131st Legislature’s first session and carried over into this year, the session that typically deals with emergency measures.
The full text of the draft amendment reads:
Every person has a right to personal reproductive autonomy, which is central to dignity nd the liberty to determine one’s own life course. The State may not deny or infringe on the right to personal reproductive autonomy unless the denial or infringement is justified by a compelling state interest and is accomplished using the means that least denies or infringes on the right.
If approved by lawmakers, the amendment will be sent to Maine voters for final approval this November.
The Legislature’s Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing on LD 780 on Monday, January 22 at 10am in Room 438 of the State House.
The hearing will begin with testimony from the Sen. Vitelli, speaking as the primary sponsor of the bill. Following that, members of the public will be called to testify, beginning with those who are present to speak in person before moving on to those appearing remotely via Zoom.
To close out the hearing, members of the Legislature who wish to offer testimony on the bill will be called upon by the Committee.
Aside from the primary sponsor, those offering testimony during the hearing will be limited to two minutes.
For those planning to testify in person, sign up sheets will be available on the Fourth Floor of the State House beginning at 8am. For those who wish to give written testimony in addition to their spoken remarks, twenty copies must be brought to the Committee room when they are called to testify.
To offer testimony virtually, members of the public can register at mainelegislature.org/testimony, and written testimony can be submitted to the Committee using this same link.
Although it is not yet clear when the Committee will transition from in person to virtual testimony, the Chairs will announce at 1pm Monday when they expect to begin calling those waiting to speak via Zoom.
According to an email sent on the Judiciary Committee’s public listserv Friday, these procedures were adopted as a result of the “anticipated high turnout” for Monday’s hearing on LD 780.
This is not the first time that Maine lawmakers have considered abortion-related bills in recent months.
Last session, lawmakers approved several bills that changed Maine’s abortion landscape in significant ways.
Most notably, legislators approved a measure dramatically expanding access to late-term abortion statewide.
Signed by Gov. Janet Mills (D) on July 17, LD 1619 allows for 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.
At the time that LD 1619 was signed into law, only six other states – including Alaska, Colorado, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Vermont – and Washington, D.C. had similar laws on books allowing doctors, without restriction, to authorize abortions at any point during a pregnancy.
Earlier this month, LD 935 — another law approved by the Legislature last session — went into effect, prohibiting insurance companies from imposing out-of-pocket costs for abortion services.
Signed into law by Gov. Mills over the summer — alongside a number of other abortion-related bills — this bill prohibits private insurers from imposing “deductible, copayment, coinsurance or other cost-sharing requirement” on those seeking an abortion.
When LD 935 was signed into law, only seven other states — including California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington — had similar provisions on the books that required private insurers to cover abortions but prohibited providers from imposing any of out-of-pocket costs for them.