Gov. Janet Mills is working with other leaders to allow abortions in Maine post 24 weeks with a doctor's approval.
On January 17, Democrat Governor Mills took to Twitter to announce that, in conjunction with Speaker Talbot Ross and Senate President Jackson, she is presenting legislation to strengthen Maine’s reproductive health care laws.
What changes are proposed?
As it stands, Maine law allows abortion up until fetal viability outside the womb (at about 24 weeks) and prohibits abortion beyond that, unless the health or life of a mother is in danger. One of the proposed bills would allow abortion access anytime before birth, if deemed necessary by a physician, waiving the current viability standard for abortions.
At the press event at the State House yesterday, Mills cited the specific experiences of a local woman in a later stage pregnancy who discovered that her child was suffering from a deadly form of skeletal dysplasia, a random, rare genetic mutation. The condition resulted in her child having several broken bones while in the womb and would have prevented him from being able to breathe, if he was able to survive birth.
Under existing state rulings, the woman was forced to travel to Colorado to receive an abortion, exacerbating her physical, psychological, emotional and financial suffering.
Crucially, the proposed legislation would also:
- Protect abortion providers from criminal punishment
- Make abortion more affordable
- End state data collection that could expose patients and providers
- Ensure that any decision about an abortion later in pregnancy is made by a qualified healthcare professional, with their patient.
Roe v. Wade
The announcement came days ahead of what would've been the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which the U.S. Supreme Court overturned last June. The reversal of Roe v. Wade effectively ended recognition of a constitutional right to abortion and gave individual states the power to allow, limit, or ban the practice of abortion altogether.
According to U.S. census data, since the overturn, nearly 21 million — about 1 in 3 girls and women in the United States between the ages of 15 and 44 — have lost access to the procedure, according to U.S. census data. The restrictions apply to both medication and surgical abortions.
What comes next?
The Republican party have condemned Governor Mills' proposals, labelling them too extreme. When questioned on the proposals following a caucus to discuss perceived failings of the child welfare agency in Maine, Senate minority leader Trey Stewart responded:
Isn't it fitting, right, that we as pro-life folks within the Legislature are here talking about how to save the lives of children that the state is going to take responsibility for, and is failing, and resulting in dead children, and they're upstairs talking about how to expand abortion and kill more fetuses.
While Republicans are in the minority and accordingly unable to stop the governor’s bill, they have enough votes to block the constitutional measure from going to voters for approval.
Mills has said she has yet to decide whether Maine should put forward a constitutional amendment to enshrine the state law. The matter is currently under review by the attorney general.
It remains to be seen whether other states will follow Maine's lead in expanding abortion rights in 2023.
What do you think of Governor Mills' proposed bills? Is Maine an anomaly or could this indicate a change in attitudes and legislative restrictions when it comes to abortion? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
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