Planned Parenthood endorses Maine Gov. Janet Mills for reelection citing record on abortion rights
PORTLAND, Maine (WMTW) - One month after the U.S. Supreme Court nullified the constitutional right to abortion, Maine Gov. Janet Mills picked up an endorsement in her campaign for a second term reflecting her policies in favor of reproductive rights.
Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund endorsed Mills, a Democrat, on Wednesday, citing a list of actions she has taken in the past few years.
“I promise you I’m not stopping fighting now, not when it’s all on the line!” Mills told the rally in Portland’s Lincoln Park. “Let me assure you, here in Maine, we are not going to go backwards!”
Since taking office in January 2019, Mills has signed laws passed by the Democratic-controlled state legislature establishing safety zones outside abortion clinics; requiring MaineCare insurance for low-income residents and private insurance plans regulated by the state to cover abortion and birth control; expanding the list of permitted abortion providers to include trained physician assistants and nurse practitioners; facilitating medication abortions by mail, and eliminating the sales tax on menstrual products.
Mills defended her record and asserted voters could not trust her Republican challenger and predecessor for eight years, former governor Paul LePage, to protect abortion rights.
Mills said, “Make no mistake about it — reproductive freedom is on the ballot this November here in Maine, and Republican candidates have made clear they will come for abortion rights. They will come for women’s freedoms if they are elected, and we know what Paul LePage will do too, no matter what he says.”
Planned Parenthood, which runs one of the three abortion clinics in Maine, drew a contrast between Mills and LePage.
Nicole Clegg, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs of the Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund, said, “Paul LePage cut funds for family planning services, he attempted to veto expansion for reproductive health care for low-income people, and he used his administration to target abortion providers.”
The LePage campaign declined to comment.
Mills described the Supreme Court’s June 24 ruling -- invalidating the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion and giving states the power to restrict the procedure -- a “fundamental assault on women’s rights and reproductive freedom,” and she expressed doubt about LePage’s recent statements about leaving abortion rights unchanged.
On Monday, LePage told WMTW, “I’m certainly not involved in reversing it or even attempt to do anything against abortion. It is the law of the state.”
In the past month, LePage previously told WMTW “nothing changes in Maine” following the Court’s ruling; “I don’t have an opinion” when it comes to restricting the window for a legal abortion; and that ending government-funding for abortion through MaineCare is “not anything I would initiate.”
LePage also said, “I don’t have time for abortion” and “abortion affects few Mainers.”
Referring to past anti-abortion statements by LePage and his past attendance at anti-abortion rallies, Mills said, “We know that when a bill to strip Maine women of their rights makes it to his desk, he’s going to sign it, even if he doesn’t want to say that out loud right now because he might lose a few votes, and I am standing here to say as long as I am governor, you can be damn sure that my veto pen will stand in the way of any and all efforts to undermine, rollback, or outright eliminate the right to abortion in our state!”
Clegg shared the story of her late mother’s illegal abortion, before the Roe decision, when she was single in her early 20s.
Clegg said, “My mother started a family when she wanted, and I am here today as a result.”
Maine teacher Rachael McCarthy described choosing to have an abortion when she was six weeks pregnant, in 2015.
“I will remember the day for the rest of my life as a day I was given a chance to take ownership over the future of my body,” McCarthy said. “I was not sick. It wasn’t an ectopic pregnancy. It was simple – I was six weeks pregnant, and I wasn’t ready to be.”
“I know that there are people who think I ended a life,” McCarthy said. “I absolutely saved mine.”
Reflecting on the five stepdaughters she raised and two granddaughters, Mills said she wants to ensure American women retain the same rights they’ve had for nearly 50 years.
Mills said, “I’m just so sad, so sad that we have to relive the fight, that we have to make the same arguments we made decades ago.”
The Maine Republican Party declined to answer questions on abortion policy but issued a written statement criticizing Mills for having attended an event with Planned Parenthood, which it described as a group “documented as supporting the Defund the Police agenda.”
Maine GOP Executive Director Jason Savage, wrote, “Mainers who are concerned about crime, the worsening opioid epidemic, and the sheer lunacy of ‘defunding the police’ should vote for Paul LePage in November,” citing LePage’s endorsement by the Maine Fraternal Order of Police.
Maine Right to Life and the Christian Civic League of Maine did not respond to requests for comment about LePage’s record.
LePage on Monday told reporters he considered Mills’ July 5 executive order shielding women traveling to Maine for abortion care or their providers from out-of-state investigations ineffective, but he would not repeal it.
“It’s not worth the paper it’s written on, and the reason why – executive orders are only for state employees. Not all law enforcement are state employees,” LePage said. “It’s needless, it’s useless, because in the state of Maine, abortion’s been codified, in 1993. It is legal.”
WMTW asked Mills for her response on Wednesday.
“There are threats all over this country, threats to prosecute or sue for civil damages people who travel from one state to another to obtain care or providers who provide them care in this state,” Mills said. “I’m setting the policy for this state as clear as I can be, and if there’s any ambiguity about that, he can call me.”
In a state of 1.1 million registered voters, Clegg said, the Planned Parenthood political action committee had nearly 100,000 Maine supporters who have donated, volunteered, or taken action for the group.
Mills said, “This November with your help, we will elect pro-choice candidates up and down the ballot, because our vote is our voice.”
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