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Maine Democrats Push for Constitutional Amendment to Secure Abortion Rights

Maine Governor Janet Mills and leading Democrats are advocating for a constitutional amendment to secure the right to reproductive health care in the state, just six months after Maine expanded access to abortions.

This move comes as Maine seeks to join four other states that have amended their constitutions to protect abortion rights since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022.

Challenges Ahead

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The proposal to amend the state constitution to protect reproductive health care faces potential hurdles, particularly after a closely contested vote in the Democratic-controlled Legislature last year.

It would require a two-thirds vote in each chamber to advance the amendment to a statewide vote, a task made more challenging by lingering Republican opposition.

Safeguarding Reproductive Health Care

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On the 51st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, Governor Mills expressed her support for amending the Maine Constitution.

She emphasized the need to ensure the right to reproductive health care remains protected, regardless of shifts in political power.

Concerns About Federal Protections

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Governor Mills highlighted that state laws can be subject to political changes and repeal, underscoring the importance of a state constitutional amendment in the absence of federal protection.

National Trends

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Maine is one of many states considering abortion-related ballot measures in the coming years, with most aiming to ensure access to varying degrees.

Abortion questions have appeared on statewide ballots seven times since Roe v. Wade, with victories for abortion-rights advocates, even in conservative and swing states.

Similar Measures Nationwide

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States like Maryland and New York already have measures related to reproductive freedom on their ballots for November 2024.

These proposals often use terms like “reproductive autonomy” or “reproductive freedom” rather than explicitly mentioning abortion.

Support for the Amendment

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Senator Eloise Vitelli, the sponsor of Maine’s proposal, emphasized the need for Maine to join states like California, Vermont, Ohio, and Michigan in explicitly protecting reproductive freedom in their state constitutions.

Public Hearing

THE HAGUE, 15 APRIL 2013 – Court room of the International Court of Justice ready to hold the hearings regarding the dispute between Cambodia and Thailand about the Preha Veahar temple
 — Photo by ankorlight

A public hearing on the proposed amendment was held before the Judiciary Committee, with about 100 supporters rallying in the State House.

House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, Senate President Troy Jackson, and others attended the hearing.

Shift in Tone

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Compared to last year’s boisterous crowds, the tone of the rally was different.

Supporters highlighted the importance of Mainers having a say in the matter through a vote.

New Abortion Law

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This proposed constitutional amendment follows a new law in Maine that allows abortions at any time if deemed medically necessary by a doctor.

The previous law, enacted in 1993, permitted abortions until fetal viability, typically around 24 weeks.

Emotional Debate

Credit: Pro-choice activists rally to stop states’ abortion bans in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on May 21, 2019 — Photo by renaschild

The abortion law sparked a 19-hour public hearing, marked by strong opposition.

The bill narrowly passed in the Maine House with a 74-72 vote after an extended break and a vote held open for 45 minutes.

Republican Accusations

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Enraged Republicans accused Democrats of political maneuvers, but few abortion opponents were present during the recent rally.

Teenage Opposition

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Some teenagers quietly held signs opposing the amendment, expressing their belief that abortion is wrong.

Activist Kristina Parker argued against the proposed constitutional amendment, asserting that personal reproductive autonomy should not include the right to take a life.

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