Gov. Janet Mills (D) has officially come out in support of an amendment to the state’s constitution that would codify the right to abortion access in Maine, a move that comes less than a year after she signed legislation permitting late-term abortions in the state.
Gov. Mills embraced both changes to Maine’s abortion laws despite promising multiple times during her re-election bid against former Republican Gov. Paul LePage that she would seek no changes to Maine’s abortion restrictions.
If approved, the proposed amendment would declare that “every person has a right to reproductive autonomy” that may not be “den[ied] or infringe[d]” upon by the “State nor any political subdivision of the State.”
The full amendment reads:
Every person has a right to reproductive autonomy. Neither the State nor any political subdivision of the State may not deny or infringe a person’s right to reproductive autonomy unless the denial or infringement is justified by a compelling state interest and is accomplished using the least restrictive means necessary. Nothing in this section narrows or limits a person’s right to privacy or equal protection.
For purposes of this section, the State’s or political subdivision’s interest in denying or infringing a person’s right to reproductive autonomy is “compelling” only if it is for the limited purpose of protecting the health of the individual seeking care, is consistent with accepted clinical standards of practice and evidence-based medicine and does not infringe on that person’s autonomous decision-making.
In a press release published Monday morning, Mills expressed support for LD 780, touting a number of other abortion-related legislation she has signed in recent months, including the dramatic expansion of access to late term abortion that went into effect this past October.
“The Governor, in collaboration with the Legislature, has enacted laws that prevent protestors from blocking health clinics, that require public and private insurance coverage of abortion services, and that made those services available to people in rural and urban areas of Maine,” the press release states.
“Last year, the Governor signed into law a series of bills to protect access to abortion, including legislation that puts the decision about whether to have an abortion later in pregnancy in the hands of women and their doctors – not politicians or lawyers, ensuring that patients can get care they need, when they need it” the statement concludes.
Mills offered testimony to the Judiciary Committee in support of the legislation, referring to state-level restrictions on abortion as “extreme” and urging lawmakers to approve the bill “so that Maine people can make their own decisions about their own fundamental rights.”
“On this day fifty-one years ago, the Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, establishing the right to abortion in the U.S. Constitution,” Mills testified. “That longstanding precedent was overturned by the Court in 2022 in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, thus dismantling the legal protection of access to abortion as a federal right.”
“Since then, many states have seized on this wrongheaded decision to launch an unprecedented barrage of attacks on access to abortion and other reproductive health care,” said Mills.
“In the year since Roe v. Wade was overturned, more than a dozen states have enacted extreme bans on abortion,” Mills continued. “As a result, in America today, nearly one-third of women no longer have access to abortion.”
“While it is easy to believe that these attacks on reproductive rights only exist beyond our state’s borders, there have been bills in this 131st Legislature to restrict reproductive rights by forcing ultrasounds, by mandating biased counseling, by taking away insurance coverage for abortion for low-income people, and by restricting access to abortion for rural women,” said Mills. “We turned back these attempts to undermine reproductive rights in Maine and, instead, we have preserved and expanded reproductive freedom in Maine.”
“It is critical that Maine people be assured that reproductive autonomy be protected to the greatest extent possible in the state – through an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Maine,” Mills testified. “Indeed, many of us would argue that Maine’s Constitution already protects reproductive rights, but the language of L.D. 780 would remove any debate.”
“We find ourselves once again facing the real fear of regressing – of returning to the time when women’s health was of secondary concern,” Mills testified. “We have an obligation to prevent that from happening and to protect and defend the right to reproductive health care. This action is needed now more than ever.”
“That is why I support enshrining the right to reproductive autonomy in the Maine Constitution and urge you pass L.D. 780, so that Maine people can make their own decisions about their own fundamental rights,” Mills concluded.
Monday morning, Mainers on both sides of the abortion debate gathered at the State House to make their voices heard at the Judiciary Committee’s public hearing on LD 780.
Before the hearing commenced at 10am, supporters of the amendment held a rally in the Hall of Flags at which Sen. Vitelli, LD 780 co-sponsor Rep. Sophia B. Warren (D-Scarborough), Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Allagash), and Speaker of the House Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland) all offered remarks in favor of the legislation.
Also in attendance at the rally were a number of people opposed to the bill, holding signs with messages such as “if abortion is not wrong, then nothing is wrong” and “murder isn’t healthcare.”
Abortion advocates, on the other hand, brought signs reading “abortion is health care” and “abortion access for all.”
If lawmakers ultimately pass LD 780, Maine voters will be asked this November to weigh in on whether or not they wish to amend the state’s constitution to enshrine a right to access abortion.
Unlike most legislation, LD 780 — as a proposed constitutional amendment — would require two-thirds approval in both chambers for passage, as opposed to the usual simple majority.