Update 7/19/23: Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed LD 1619, expanding abortion access in Maine. Before signing the bill, she said, “Maine law should recognize that every pregnancy, like every woman, is different, and that politicians cannot and should not try to legislate the wide variety of difficult circumstances pregnant women face.”
Maine lawmakers have advanced and appear to have the votes to pass a bill that would remove gestational limits on abortion when a licensed physician determines the procedure is necessary, expanding access in the state. Currently, Maine restricts abortion after fetal viability, or about 24 weeks’ gestation, unless the health or life of the pregnant person is at risk.
Gov. Janet Mills (D) proposed the bill, Legislative Document 1619, which would update the state’s Reproductive Privacy Act to let doctors use their clinical judgement to determine when abortion is appropriate. The bill also removes criminal penalties for providers and for people who help someone self-manage an abortion.
Currently, seven states allow medical providers to offer abortion throughout pregnancy: Alaska, Colorado, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington D.C. (which isn’t technically a state but absolutely should be). The House passed LD 1619 on Thursday night by a vote of 74 to 72. If the Senate passes the measure, Maine would become the first state to repeal its gestational limit in the wake of the Dobbs decision.
People need abortions later in pregnancy for many reasons, including new diagnoses, late recognition of pregnancy, and barriers to getting care when they wanted it. In the year since the Supreme Court overturned Roe, providers are seeing even more people seeking abortions later in pregnancy.
Expanding access to abortion is a good thing on its own, but it’s especially interesting to consider the bill in the context of one U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R), the least popular senator in the country. Collins, who claims to support abortion rights, was a deciding vote to confirm both Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, who voted to overturn Roe. (Collins was a no on Amy Coney Barrett, likely knowing Republicans didn’t need her vote, which occurred mere days before her 2020 re-election.) She even said she thought people were being alarmist about Kavanaugh’s crystal clear record on abortion. When Roe fell four years later, the Maine senator claimed she’d been duped by Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.
Collins bears a lot of responsibility for the fall of Roe, and now her home state is on the verge of expanding access that’s all the more crucial in the wake of the 14 state bans—and counting—that she wrought.