AUGUSTA – Reproductive Rights organizations, patient advocates and faith leaders celebrated Governor Janet Mills’ signing of LD 1619, An Act to Improve Maine’s Reproductive Privacy Laws today.
The bill was inspired by Dana, a Yarmouth woman who, due to Maine’s current law, was forced to travel to Colorado to receive an abortion later in pregnancy after discovering her son had a lethal form of spinal dysplasia. Dana had to spend tens of thousands of dollars, leave her trusted medical team here in Maine, and leave her support system, family and friends just to get the medical care she needed, when she needed it.
Governor Janet Mills announced LD 1619 as a key bill in this first full legislative session since the U.S. Supreme Court revoked federal protections for abortion last year, and House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, Senate President Troy Jackson, and a majority of lawmakers in both chambers championed this bill along with four others since its official introduction last spring.
LD 1619 will ensure no Maine family will have to suffer through what Dana’s did, and those without the financial means won’t be forced to remain pregnant against the advice of their doctor. Most Mainers, like most Americans, do not have several hundred dollars saved for any kind of medical emergency, let alone tens of thousands of dollars for out-of-state travel and abortion care. The people most affected by bans on abortion care and criminalization of that care are the most vulnerable: Black, Brown and Indigenous people, people with disabilities, people with low incomes and people who live in rural areas. Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned federal protections for abortion, those inequities in access and receiving care have only been exacerbated, and the passage of LD 1619 is a step forward in addressing inequities in access to care in Maine.
The bill will remove Maine’s current ban on abortion later in pregnancy, remove criminal penalties attached exclusively to abortion care and not other medical procedures, and update the state’s antiquated data collection laws for abortion providers and patients. Passage of this bill makes Maine the first state since Dobbs to address restrictions on abortions later in pregnancy via its state legislature.
Dana, fellow patient advocate, Zoe, reproductive rights organizations and faith leaders applauded Governor Mills and all of the lawmakers who voted for this legislation.
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president, Planned Parenthood Action Fund:
“Maine has taken a crucial step today to secure reproductive freedom for all. Instead of traveling far from home for care, Mainers who need abortion later in pregnancy will be able to seek care in their own communities. Planned Parenthood Action Fund congratulates the tireless efforts of the patients, providers and advocates who fought for this critical change. This groundbreaking legislation shows that when politicians listen to people — whether they have abortions or provide this essential care — change is possible.”
Statement from Nicole Clegg, Acting CEO, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England:
“Thanks to patients who bravely shared their stories of how bans on abortion care impacted them and caused harm, Maine has a new law that will put the decisions in these situations where they belong — in the hands of patients and their doctors. We have enormous gratitude for Governor Mills, Speaker Talbot Ross, President Jackson and a majority of lawmakers in the statehouse who listened to these stories and acted with compassion. Clinicians in Maine will now be able to provide care their patients need, when they need it, right here at home, and they won’t have to fear prosecution for using their medical judgment to meet the needs of their patients.
Twenty states have enacted bans or near total bans on abortion care since the U.S. Supreme Court revoked federal protections for abortion, but not Maine. Our elected leaders listened to voters and acted to protect and expand our reproductive rights and freedoms. Today, Governor Mills has signed a fifth important piece of legislation into law since the loss of Roe that is designed to protect Mainers’ basic rights and their futures.”
Dana Pierce, Yarmouth, Maine, patient advocate:
“We learned during the 32nd week of a seemingly healthy pregnancy that the baby I was carrying, Cameron, had a rare and lethal form of skeletal dysplasia. He had multiple broken bones, and if he survived until delivery, he would not have been able to breathe outside of me.
In this moment of shock and grief, my doctors here in Maine could not help us, because state law at the time banned abortions later in pregnancy. Fortunately, we were lucky enough to have the social and financial resources — the abortion alone cost $25,000 — to travel across the country for abortion care to end our son's suffering.
I advocated for LD 1619 because I needed an abortion late in pregnancy and I got one. But even as we were able to travel and pay for the care I needed, we were painfully aware that most Mainers (and most Americans!) in my situation would not have been able to access the care that I received.
I am grateful beyond explanation that Governor Mills and our Maine legislators have heard my story and acted to protect other Mainers from the unnecessary suffering we endured. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Zoe Reich, Portland, Maine, patient advocate:
“Today is a proud and deeply emotional day for me and all patient advocates who have been tirelessly sharing our stories in the hopes of impacting change through improving Maine's laws. The passing of LD 1619 will provide great relief to patients who find themselves in need of abortion care later in pregnancy, like I did. Thank you, Governor Mills, and the majority of the Democratic lawmakers in the state for recognizing that the deeply personal decision to have an abortion should be left to the pregnant person and their medical provider.
LD 1619 will allow opportunities and futures that abortion access makes possible: jobs, education, fulfilling relationships, economic stability for families of all sizes, safe and healthy future pregnancies. My abortion changed my life and allowed me to go on to have two amazing, healthy, children. I love this state and I'm proud that it will be a place where no one will be forced to endure the cruel and punitive suffering that I did, in order to get the healthcare they need.
I have deep gratitude for Governor Mills and all the lawmakers who heard our stories and saw the need to improve Maine's law. By signing LD1619 into law you have made the suffering of pregnant people who find themselves in heartbreaking and desperate situations a little less and you have allowed people to stay close to their family and support networks when they need it the most. Knowing Maine will soon have a law that supports people who need abortion later in pregnancy makes me proud to be a Mainer.”
Meagan Sway, Policy Director, ACLU of Maine:
“We applaud Governor Mills and Maine lawmakers for protecting abortion access by repealing outdated and anti-science laws that criminalized essential health care and pushed it out of reach for most Mainers at later stages of pregnancy. Across the country, states are banning abortion outright and threatening prosecution against patients and providers – risking their people’s lives and wellbeing. The United States has the shameful distinction of maternal mortality rates nearly four times higher than other wealthy nations, and this trend has only gotten worse since the fall of Roe. Restrictions to abortion care disproportionately harm people of color, particularly Black people, who are over three times more likely to die as a result of pregnancy than their white peers, regardless of education or income. In the face of these national trends, Maine has moved in the opposite direction by making it easier for people to make the best health care decisions for themselves without legal threats or judgment, including the ability to access abortion care."
Elayne Richard, Education Coordinator, Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights (GRR!):
"The passage of LD 1619 is a significant victory for bodily autonomy during a national humanitarian crisis for pregnant people. Gestational bans and criminal codes most profoundly harm racially and economically marginalized communities. We thank those who shared experiences publicly, thereby shining light on the complexity of individual decision-making, as well as existing barriers to care. We are proud of the majority of Maine legislators for trusting pregnant people and improving access to abortion services."
Amanda Taisey, Health Systems Engagement Coordinator, Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence:
“The Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence stands in solidarity with those who advocated for LD 1619, especially those who bravely shared stories of how access to abortion care saved or improved their lives and the lives of their families.
LD 1619 removes barriers for all Mainers, including those experiencing intimate partner violence. Abusive partners and their power and control tactics, including physical and sexual violence, are key reasons why survivors may have pregnancies they do not intend, may be prevented from seeking care when they want and need it, or suffer complications in their pregnancies requiring later term abortions.
We applaud the elected officials and Governor Mills for taking this ground-breaking step to ensure access to the full range of reproductive healthcare for all Mainers. MCEDV and the Domestic Violence Resource Centers across our state are proud to continue to support survivors accessing the care that they need and have a right to."
Abbie Strout-Bentes, Co-Director, Mabel Wadsworth Center:
“We are proud to see Maine take an important step towards ensuring reproductive freedom for all of us and celebrate the signing of LD 1619 into law today. As a healthcare center that provides prenatal and abortion care, we understand that decisions around pregnancy are complex and unique to each of us. They are some of the most intimate and life-changing choices we make in our lives. LD 1619 is a compassionate bill that trusts medical professionals and pregnant people to make decisions about their healthcare needs. We are grateful to all of Maine’s leaders who rejected the fear tactics, harmful rhetoric, and disinformation spread by anti-abortion extremists and supported this critical bill."
Rev. Jane Field, Maine Council of Churches:
“As part of our ongoing commitment to promoting reproductive justice, the Maine Council of Churches, an ecumenical coalition of seven mainline Protestant denominations with 437 congregations throughout the state, supported passage of LD 1619. And we did so, not despite our faith, but because of it. Rather than offer rigid, simplistic, one-size-fits-all “answers” to life’s most difficult and complex questions, we believe we are called to respect the moral capacity and autonomy of pregnant persons to discern the best path forward in consultation with licensed health care providers who are bound by medical ethics and are trained to determine appropriate, necessary medical care at every stage of a pregnancy. We do not believe anyone should be forced by the government to remain pregnant against the advice of their doctor — and this law means that won’t be happening here in Maine.
We are grateful that, with the signing of LD 1619 into law, Mainers will no longer be forced to travel to a faraway state to receive medically necessary care from doctors other than their own at a time when they are suffering unimaginable loss and heartache and deserve, not the stigma and shame some religious groups hurl at them, rather, we believe they deserve only our compassion, support, and respect. This new law ensures that is exactly what they will receive here in our great state.”
George Hill, President & CEO, Maine Family Planning:
“On behalf of the board, staff, and patients of Maine Family Planning, we express our deepest gratitude to Governor Mills, House Speaker Talbot Ross, Senate President Jackson, and every Maine lawmaker and citizen who supported LD 1619 through its passage into law. When people are making decisions about their reproductive health care, they don’t need politicians or lawyers in the room with them, restricting their options, creating confusion and delays in care, or potentially criminalizing patients and providers. They need to be trusted, supported, and empowered to make decisions that are right for their bodies and their lives.
Roughly ninety percent of abortions occur within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, but as more and more states restrict access to this essential care, more and more patients will be forced to seek abortions later in pregnancy or carry unsafe pregnancies. Even before Roe was overturned, accessing abortion care later in pregnancy was difficult, with only a handful of states and providers that patients could turn to in their time of need, as Dana and Zoe’s cases illustrate. With the passage of LD 1619, Maine is following science, compassion, and best practices in the delivery of reproductive medicine. We are proud to join Alaska, Colorado, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and the District of Columbia as a place that doesn’t impose unscientific, arbitrary restrictions on access to abortion.”
Destie Hohman Sprague, Executive Director, Maine Women’s Lobby:
“The Maine Women’s Lobby would like to extend our deepest gratitude to Governor Mills and Speaker Talbot Ross, and to each of the lawmakers who took the step to support increased access to abortion care in Maine this session. Abortion care opens the door to gender equity, and no matter what, we refuse to let that door close. This bill, and the collection of bills passed this year affirming Maine’s commitment to abortion access, are ways that we open the door to gender justice and ensure that women and all people who can become pregnant have the autonomy and resources to make the best decisions they can for their bodies and their futures.”