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The 49-year old constitutional right to choose is almost gone. A leaked draft of a Supreme Court decision by Justice Samuel Alito would let states ban all abortions.
Some states already have laws waiting to prohibit the procedure and criminalize medical professionals performing abortions and women who had them.
In Maine, the choice is clear.
If Gov. Janet Mills wins reelection and Democrats control the Maine Legislature, abortion rights are safe. But if Paul LePage wins the governorship and Republican legislators gain majority control, women may lose reproductive rights.
The Maine GOP’s platform declares its belief “in the sanctity of human life – from conception,” a viewpoint consistent with banning all abortions.
Maine Republicans’ extreme stance also reflects the importance of religious right voters in its party’s coalition. Those voters are why the platform still opposes same-sex couples marrying ( 10 years after Maine voters backed it) and why the state convention just unanimously adopted a plank against teaching about race, with scare language about LGBTQ issues and “hypersexualizing students” in public schools through high school.
LePage has benefitted from the support of religious right voters and groups and, as governor, spoke to anti-choice rallies multiple times.
Yet LePage, who has long presented himself as blunt and straight-talking, is now rather vague about which abortion policies he’d sign into law — a clear contrast to his specificity on taxes. As Bangor Daily News reporter Caitlin Andrews noted, after the draft decision overturning Roe was published, his campaign put out a “roundabout statement.”
Indeed the wording of LePage’s missive was mealy-mouthed and downright muddled, with mentions of federal funding for abortion, the difficulties of his upbringing, current Maine law on late-term abortion and past efforts regarding abused women and senior citizens.
What it didn’t do is answer questions like these: Does LePage support criminalizing abortion? At what point in pregnancy does he think abortion should be banned? Does he support exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother? Does he think fetal viability is the right time to prohibit abortions and if so, would he require women to get scans (intravaginally or otherwise) to establish fetal age?
And oddly, the official word from the Maine Republican Party is that it’s impossible to foresee the pursuit of abortion policies by legislators from his party.
Jason Savage, the executive director of the Maine GOP wrote, “Surely we won’t comment on what a group of independent-minded legislators representing a diverse array of Maine communities with their own philosophies and beliefs, who have not even been elected yet, would do.”
One can only wonder what abortion opponents who long backed Republicans in part because of this issue think about this hedging.
Meanwhile Sen. Susan Collins asserted that what nominee Brett Kavanaugh told her is inconsistent with the leaked draft opinion overturning Roe.
Except, if we are to take Collins at her word, that’s not so. In fact, in her 2018 speech explaining why she backed Kavanaugh, Collins said he’d follow long-standing precedents — unless they were “grievously wrong.” Well, this is nearly how Justice Alito characterized Roe in the leaked opinion — as “egregiously wrong.”
And surely the famously well-prepared Collins, who’s voted for anti-choice judges before, knew that the Federalist Society vetted Trump nominees and the Federalist Society doctrine is that Roe is grievously wrong. It’s not credible that she was duped.
Ultimately, we should be focused on what reproductive rights mean to women’s lives. In the draft decision, Justice Alito dismissed evidence that “women’s ability to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.” Nor was he moved by the reality explained in previous decisions that people “organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.”
But the majority of Mainers who back women’s ability to choose abortion do care about such concerns and can vote accordingly in November. Despite LePage’s caginess on specifics, he’s the candidate who has opposed choice and Mills is choice’s champion.