Lawmakers hold power over whether measure goes to voters
(Portland, MAINE) – On what would be the 51st anniversary of Roe v Wade, Maine lawmakers will hear testimony today on a constitutional amendment protecting reproductive autonomy.
The public hearing for 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), comes 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.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court revoked federal protections for abortion in June 2022, 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 Kansas, Kentucky and Montana rejected attempts to take away reproductive liberties.
Statement from Lisa Margulies, Esq., Vice President of Public Affairs, Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund
“On this would-be anniversary of Roe v Wade, we celebrate the progress we’ve made in Maine to protect and expand access to abortion and related care. We are proud of our lawmakers who listened to patients, providers, and faith leaders last session to pass historic legislation in the wake of Dobbs.
Now, all 151 of Maine’s elected state legislators have a duty to send LD 780 to voters. LD 780 is about explicitly enshrining the fundamental right to reproductive autonomy in our state’s constitution. With federal protections for abortion revoked and other federal rights in jeopardy, our lawmakers have the duty to bring this amendment to the people of Maine. This isn’t just about reproductive rights—this is about the core values of democracy and a state constitution by the people, for the people of Maine.
The judiciary committee will hear testimony from Mainers of all walks of life today, and that testimony comes with the hope that our elected leaders have the courage to let every Maine voter speak on the future of reproductive autonomy in our state.”
Lisa Kushner, patient advocate, Belfast, Maine
“Having an illegal abortion was an infuriating, helpless, desperate, humiliating experience for me and my family. The trauma we went through was completely unnecessary.
Personal reproductive decisions have no place in state legislatures. Our elected officials should never be orchestrating their constituents' reproductive lives. This is happening in 21 states in our country and could happen here. Every year those who believe in reproductive justice and reproductive freedom have to fight bills that are meant to make abortion illegal again. It is a huge distraction from addressing the important issues we face; gun violence, the changing climate, housing, food insecurity, resources for addiction recovery, etc. etc. etc.
This bill would make a clear statement: Mainers deserve the chance to vote on putting this issue aside, so that those who work at the State House can address the hard work of governing.”
Dr. Julia McDonald, DO, MPH, Augusta, Maine
“I am a family physician who takes care of Mainers. I am also an abortion provider, here in Maine and around the world. After Dobbs, I took care of patients in New Mexico who had to travel from restricted states because their reproductive freedom was denied by their home state’s laws. With Doctors Without Borders, I provide abortion and contraceptive care in countries that restrict the rights of girls and women. I have seen what communities look like when the basic human rights of bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom have been removed. Here in Maine, we have a long history of standing for independence, freedom, and Mainer’s rights. I am proud to come from a state that has long ensured access to sex education, contraception, and abortion care. I’m proud of the work we have recently done to expand reproductive rights. A constitutional amendment will ensure that future generations of Mainers continue to have the freedom to maintain personal reproductive autonomy.”
Dr. Kathryn Sharpless, MD, PhD, Yarmouth, Maine
"As a Mainer, as a mother, and as an obstetrician/gynecologist, I urge our lawmakers to pass LD 780 and to let Maine voters decide whether or not to strengthen the Maine constitution with explicit protection for reproductive autonomy.
This bill would make explicit that people have the right to make personal, sometimes complex, medical decisions about their own health based on their own unique circumstances. These medical decisions include deciding if and when to start a family, using a birth control of one’s choice, seeking treatment for infertility, accessing abortion care, undergoing gender-affirming care, and having control over one’s own body during pregnancy, labor and delivery."
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."
Cait Vaughan, 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.”
Destie Hoffman Sprague, Executive Director, Maine Women’s Lobby
“Since the Dobbs decision eliminated the abortion protections provided by Roe v. Wade, abortion access has been left up to each state. While Maine legislators have created powerful protections for the full range of reproductive care, a constitutional amendment preserves these rights for future generations.”
Abbie Strout-Bentes, Executive Director, Safe Abortions For Everyone (SAFE) Maine
“The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has fueled an all-out assault on abortion access across the United States. The harm it is causing is devastating. From women being arrested for miscarriages to nearly 1 in 5 abortion seekers being forced to travel outside of the state they live in to access care. Maine’s leaders have made significant progress in our Pine Tree State to ensure all Mainers can access abortion care when they need it. But these laws are not guaranteed past the next election. And that is scary. Now is the time to ensure our state constitution is crystal clear regarding reproductive freedom by passing LD 780!"
Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit membership organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England in Maine. PPNNE has four health centers in Maine and sees more than 12,000 patients a year.