Hearing on bill to increase abortion rights in Maine continues into Tuesday morning

Bill introduced by Gov. Mills and House Speaker Ross to legalize abortion after fetal viability or 24 weeks into pregnancy
Published: May. 1, 2023 at 6:17 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - The abortion issue drew the most well-attended public hearing of the year at the Maine State Legislature for a hearing that began shortly after noon on Monday and continued through the night and into Tuesday morning.

Hundreds of Mainers signed up to testify for two minutes each at the hearing.

An Act to Improve Maine’s Reproductive Privacy Laws, or LD 1619, was proposed in early April by Gov. Janet Mills looking to extend reproductive rights of women and abortion access across the state.

Sponsored by House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross and Senate President Troy Jackson, LD 1619 would allow abortion after viability, or later in the pregnancy, if or when a licensed physician determines it necessary.

Bethany Beausang, senior policy advisor for Mills, said the bill looks to protect the rare cases of women having an option for abortion due to limited circumstances.

“What caused the governor to introduce this bill is the stories that you’ll hear from women in Maine who have had direct personal experiences later in their pregnancies where they’ve had to leave the state under heartbreaking circumstances to get needed health care,” said Beausang.

“No one should be forced to remain pregnant against the advice of their trusted medical provider, and Maine’s law as written is doing just that,” said Ross.

However, opponents believe this proposal will do more harm than good.

“My heart is really for the babies that are at risk and the mothers,” said Bob Emrich, opposer of LD 1619.

Members of the Maine Right to Life Coalition rallied at the State House opposing the bill.

“I don’t believe Maine wants to have extended abortion laws like this,” said Kelley Lavigne. “We have laws that are adequate now for saving the life of a mother. This would take it all the way to the day of birth which doesn’t even make sense to me.”

The bill would also remove criminal penalties for performing an abortion after fetal viability or without being licensed as a physician, physician assistant, or advanced practice registered nurse.

While Republicans and Democrats remain split on the issue, Democrats are unlikely to have trouble passing the bill.

There were enough co-sponsors to ensure a majority.