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January 10, 2024

Lawmakers, advocates, and Maine people rallied for abortion access at the State House on January 22, 2024. Credit: Samuel Crankshaw, ACLU of Maine.

AUGUSTA – On the heels of a historic legislative session during which Maine lawmakers passed a slate of bills protecting and expanding access to abortion and related care, the state’s elected leaders will consider a bill that would enshrine the right to reproductive autonomy in the state’s constitution. If passed by lawmakers, the bill will go to voters for approval. 

The Maine legislature’s judiciary committee announced it will hold a public hearing on the bill, LD 780, a “Resolution, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine to Protect Personal Reproductive Autonomy,” sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli (D-Sagadahoc), on Monday, Jan. 22. That date will mark what would have been the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the precedent-setting Supreme Court case that guaranteed federal protections for abortion. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe in June 2022. 

Since then, 21 states have enacted bans or near total bans on abortion care, and 1 in 3 women have lost the right to abortion in their home state. Attacks on abortion and related sexual and reproductive health care continue to threaten basic rights and autonomy across the country, including in Maine. In 2023 alone, Maine lawmakers opposed to abortion proposed eight bills aimed at taking away their constituents' reproductive freedoms. 

Since Dobbs, Voters across the country affirmed their support for protecting reproductive liberties. In California, Michigan, Ohio and Vermont voters approved measures to enshrine reproductive rights in their constitutions, and voters in Kentucky and Montana rejected attempts to take away reproductive liberties.  

Meagan Sway, Policy Director, ACLU of Maine:

"Maine law currently protects abortion access, but extreme politicians could easily undo this in the future. Safeguarding access in the state constitution is crucial to protect this right in the face of anti-abortion politicians and a U.S. Supreme Court that flouts simple rules of precedent. LD 780 will allow Maine voters to protect abortion rights, just as voters have done in states from Kansas to Kentucky and Michigan to Montana. This amendment will further protect bodily autonomy and privacy from future meddling or shifting political winds in Maine – because the government should never have the authority to force a person to remain pregnant against their will." 

Statement from Lisa Margulies, Esq., Vice President of Public Affairs, Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund:

“Maine has strong laws protecting comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care, but laws are subject to the whims of politicians. Voters deserve to have their voices heard on this issue, and, with LD 780, lawmakers have an obligation to all Mainers to pass this bill and let the people of Maine weigh in.

We have seen the devastating consequences of abortion bans throughout the country on patients, on providers, and on communities. And we know people opposed to reproductive autonomy won’t stop their attacks on our rights and freedoms.

Let’s be clear: Attacks on our rights are not only harmful, they are wildly unpopular. In every election since Dobbs, voters have made their voices heard again and again. When reproductive rights are on the ballot, reproductive rights win.” 

Dr. Julia McDonald, DO, MPH, Augusta, Maine:

“As an American, I value liberty, autonomy, and freedom. As a physician and an abortion provider, I support the independence and freedom of my patients to make the medical decisions that are best for them and their families. In the wake of Dobbs, we have seen politicians revoke Americans’ basic civil liberties and personal freedoms with restrictions and bans against contraception, abortion care, and gender affirming care. Mainers deserve to have their human rights protected by our state constitution. Medical care is a basic human right. Bodily autonomy is a fundamental right. It is time to enshrine these rights for Mainers with a constitutional amendment.”

Dr. Kathryn Sharpless, MD, PhD, Yarmouth, Maine:

“A constitutional amendment to protect reproductive autonomy would more strongly protect the ability of my patients to make personal, sometimes complex, medical decisions about their own health based on their own unique circumstances in a safe and bias-free environment. Examples of these medical decisions include deciding if and when to start a family, using the birth control of one’s choice, seeking treatment for infertility, accessing abortion care, and having control over one’s own body during pregnancy, labor and delivery."

Cait Vaughn, Interim Executive Director, Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights (GRR!):

"Mainers should not have to hold our breath each election cycle for fear that our right to basic health care like abortion will be stripped away. It is time for the Maine people to have our say once and for all on the issues of reproductive freedom, and we urge legislators to bring this question to the people for a vote."

Aspen Ruhlin, Community Engagement Manager, Mabel Wadsworth Center:

“Mabel Wadsworth Center supports LD 780, a resolution to amend the Maine constitution to explicitly protect reproductive rights in the state. We know that all Mainers deserve autonomy over their lives and over their bodies, and that is not possible without access to the full range of reproductive healthcare, whether that is contraception, abortion care, prenatal care, or any other example of reproductive care. We know that the majority of Mainers agree that we should all have access to the reproductive care that we need, including abortion care throughout pregnancy.

While we do believe that the Maine constitution protects reproductive rights as it is written, we at Mabel Wadsworth Center believe that protection needs to be explicitly stated. Mainers have made incredible gains over the years to protect reproductive rights in state law, but those rights are not guaranteed unless they are enshrined into the constitution. As we have seen across the country, laws and legal precedent can be undone against the will of the people. Therefore, we feel it is essential to pass this constitutional amendment and explicitly protect reproductive rights for all Mainers in the Maine constitution.”

Rev. Jane Field, Executive Director, Maine Council of Churches:

“The Maine Council of Churches has consistently advocated for protecting the right of people in Maine to access reproductive health care, and we do so, not despite our faith, but because of it—in fact, a majority of Christians in the U.S. believe reproductive health care should be safe, accessible, and legal.  But neither “the Church” nor the government should have the ability to interfere with the fundamental human right of reproductive autonomy or to restrict citizens’ freedom and liberty to make their own personal decisions about reproductive health care. And because reproductive rights are fundamental human rights, they should not be up for debate with every election cycle. An amendment to Maine’s constitution would ensure that protection of these rights is no longer left to the whim of politicians; these rights would be protected now and in the future.”

George Hill, President and CEO, Maine Family Planning:

“In June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court unraveled nearly 50 years of legal precedent by overturning Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey in their decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Those of us who have dedicated our lives to reproductive rights know that this was not a shocking or unexpected move, but rather the result of decades of strategic, well-resourced anti-abortion advocacy that uses the courts and voter suppression as tools for an ideological agenda that lacks popular support. When the decision of access to abortion is truly put in the hands of the people, the people choose liberty, autonomy, and privacy for our reproductive health decisions, time and time again.

The resolution sponsored by Senator Eloise Vitelli, LD 780, seeks to democratically put a simple and straightforward question to Maine voters: ‘Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to declare that every person has a right to personal reproductive autonomy?’ By recognizing and protecting this right, Maine can affirm its commitment to upholding the fundamental principle that individuals have the right to make personal decisions about their own bodies, and foster a society where individuals have the agency to make choices that align with their values and circumstances.

Maine Family Planning wholeheartedly supports LD 780 and urges all our state lawmakers, regardless of their political party, to let the people weigh in on this important decision.”