The bipartisan bill protects legal abortion in Maine state law
Tomorrow marks the 29th anniversary of the signing of the Reproductive Privacy Act, Maine’s landmark bill protecting the right to legal abortion in state law. With the Supreme Court poised to allow states to ban or severely restrict access to abortion, the Reproductive Privacy Act continues to protect Mainers rights and preserve legal abortion in Maine.
The Reproductive Privacy Act
- The Reproductive Privacy Act was created in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey permitting states to impose restrictions and barriers to abortion.
- Maine leaders sent a clear message that such restrictions are not welcome in Maine. Maine was only the 5th state to affirmatively protect legal abortion in state law or in a state’s constitution.
- Ensuring abortion remains legal in Maine was a bipartisan issue in 1993 as lawmakers of both parties championed the Reproductive Privacy Act.
- Republican Senator Pam Cahill and Democratic Representative Susan Farnsworth sponsored the legislation, a Governor’s bill supported by Republican Governor Jock McKernan. More than 2/3 of the Senate (24-11) and nearly 2/3 of the House (97-44) voted in favor of protecting legal abortion in Maine.
- Even in 1993, advocates knew the fight was not over and warned supporters to take nothing for granted. In the decades since, opponents of abortion have steadily pushed harsher abortion restrictions and policies, putting abortion out of reach for millions even with Roe v Wade in place.
- There were nearly 600 abortion restrictions introduced in 2021 alone, and more than 100 were signed into law – a record number in any one year since Roe v. Wade, proving that the legal right to abortion is not a guarantee that people can get abortions when they need them.
The State of Abortion Access 29 Years Later
- The Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision on Mississippi’s abortion ban in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization later this spring. With a 6-3 anti-abortion majority, the court is likely to allow states to ban or severely restrict access to abortion.
- Politicians hostile to abortion are not waiting. In the first two months of 2022, legislators introduced 519 abortion restrictions in 41 states and 82 abortion bans in 30 states, and Maine is not immune.
- Last year, politicians introduced bills to take away insurance coverage of abortion, force providers to give their patients dangerous and medically inaccurate information, mandate medically unnecessary forced delays and procedures for abortion, and shame and stigmatize abortion patients and providers. All were defeated because a majority of current legislators support access to abortion, but that could all change with the next election.
- If the Supreme Court allows states to ban or severely restrict access to abortion, 26 states are certain or likely to ban abortion, but the Reproductive Privacy Act ensures that abortion will remain legal in Maine no matter the court’s decision.
- Laws can be changed. If a majority of anti-abortion politicians take control of the legislature or the Blaine House in November, they could pass laws restricting or banning abortion.
Governor Janet Mills
With the future of Roe v. Wade uncertain and as other states restrict or effectively eliminate access to abortion, I pledge to the people of Maine on this important anniversary that as long as I am your Governor I will always protect reproductive rights. Nearly three decades ago, the Reproductive Privacy Act enshrined in state law the right to an abortion, and my Administration has since built on that right, expanding access to reproductive health care and sending the clear message that we will not follow the misguided direction of other states and that we will not make women in our state second class citizens. In the face of any effort to threaten the reproductive rights of Maine people, I will be the wall that stands in the way.
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, Senate cosponsor of the RPA
The decision to start a family is deeply personal. That’s why, in my first term in elected office, I cosponsored the bipartisan Reproductive Privacy Act and worked to write abortion protections into state law. This landmark state law strengthened the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling which is based on the Fourth Amendment’s right to privacy clause. While the Reproductive Privacy Act has broken down barriers to abortion care in Maine for nearly 30 years, the right to access reproductive health care is under threat all over the country today. The constitutional rights we’ve had for nearly 50 years have been chipped away over decades, and, depending on what the conservative Supreme Court does this summer, could be lost entirely. So, as we mark the 29th anniversary of the Reproductive Privacy Act, we cannot lose sight of how tenuous access to safe, legal abortion care really is and must redouble our commitment to protecting women’s health care everywhere.
Joanne D’Arcangelo, Board Chair of the Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund and leader of the Reproductive Choice Coalition during passage of the RPA
Passing the Reproductive Privacy Act was critically important to protecting Mainers’ right abortion. Maine has a strong and enduring legacy supporting abortion rights, before and since the landmark Reproductive Privacy Act, and we must protect and strengthen it. That starts by engaging our candidates for governor and the legislature; requiring them to clearly state their position on abortion and related reproductive justice issues; and ensuring we elect leaders in Augusta who respect and reflect Maine’s support for access to abortion.
George Hill, Maine Family Planning
The Reproductive Privacy Act has protected Mainers’ rights to abortion for 29 years. But those rights are under coordinated attack unlike anything I’ve seen since Roe v. Wade. We must be vigilant and proactive, because the anti-abortion movement has been playing the long game since 1973. We cannot let Maine go back in time, we must continue to chart a bold course for our state with reproductive justice at the center of our work. We need all hands on deck right now.
Kelli McCannell, Executive Director of Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights (GRR!)
Almost 30 years since the Reproductive Privacy Act was passed in Maine, we face a formidable moment in our nation’s struggle for abortion rights and access. Our state’s advocates and dedicated lawmakers have steadfastly advanced reproductive freedom for Maine people. Now is a time to dig deeper, to defend what we have won here, and move in solidarity with people in more restrictive states who need this vital care.
Aislinn Canarr, Board President of Mabel Wadsworth Center
On the 29th anniversary of Maine’s Reproductive Privacy Act, in the face of unprecedented restrictions on abortion across the country and a Supreme Court stacked against us, this protection has never felt more important. It is also not enough. We believe in a future where abortion is equitable and available for all who need it — when they need it, wherever they need it — without shame or stigma. It is time to be loud and support the people that have abortions and the medical professionals that ensure abortion access happens every day. Policies must support people’s whole lives making it possible for families and individuals to live their fullest lives. While it may be reassuring to have the Reproductive Privacy Act, we will continue to advocate so reproductive freedom is accessible for all.