Republicans called on their fellow Mainers Wednesday to oppose an abortion expansion bill, calling it evil and extreme.
Gov. Janet Mills — along with more than 90 fellow Democrats — are proposing to allow abortions to be performed later in pregnancy with a doctor’s recommendation.
Current law allows abortions in Maine up to viability, which is generally considered to be about 24 weeks, unless an abortion is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.
The legislation would allow abortions to be performed at any point when a “licensed physician determines that it is necessary," according to the legislation.
Republicans describe it as an unnecessary expansion of abortion rights.
“God alone numbers our days, not Janet Mills,” Rep. Reagan Paul (R-Winterport) said. “To say this bill is evil would be a severe understatement.”
Despite saying during the fall campaign that she did not plan to expand abortion access, Mills announced the bill in January after hearing the story of a Yarmouth woman who had to travel out of state for an abortion.
Dana Peirce said she learned during her 32nd week of pregnancy that her baby had “a rare and lethal form of skeletal dysplasia.”
“He had multiple broken bones, and if he survived until delivery, he would not have been able to breathe outside of me,” Peirce said in a press release from Mills’ office. “In this moment of shock and grief, my doctors here in Maine could not help us, because current state law bans abortions later in pregnancy.”
The bill, which will come up for a public hearing in the coming weeks, is the latest development in a series of decisions surrounding abortion in the U.S.
Last June, the Supreme Court overturned nearly 50 years of federal protections for abortion, sending the issue back to the states.
But the decision had little immediate impact in Maine because of a 1993 law protecting abortion access.
Then last week, a federal judge in Texas issued a ruling to block one of two medications used in abortions. If that ruling stands, women in Maine and elsewhere will no longer have access to mifepristone, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration 20 years ago.
Democrats said the June Supreme Court decision prompted them to reexamine the laws on the books in Maine and spurred their support for Mills’ bill.
“It’s important to look at our laws and make sure that they account for the current legal landscape, and I think this legislation does exactly that,” said Sen. Anne Carney (D-Cape Elizabeth).
After the bill was released Tuesday, Mills announced support from many groups, including the Maine Council of Churches, Maine Medical Association, ACLU of Maine and Maine Women’s Lobby.
Last week, several anti-abortion groups — including Maine Right to Life and the Christian Civic League of Maine — gathered at the State House to oppose the bill and others that will be considered this year.
And on Wednesday, during what’s typically a routine process to send the bill to a committee, Assistant House Minority Leader Rep. Amy Arata (R-New Gloucester) spoke on the House floor, calling the bill “beneath the dignity of this body” and urged fellow lawmakers to vote it down “before it has a chance to kill anybody.”
Bill supporter Sen. Mattie Daughtry (D-Brunswick) said she sees the bill as a measure to help women who are experiencing difficult pregnancies.
“No two pregnancies, just like no two people, are alike,” Daughtry said. “This bill really empowers families and women to make these decisions with their health care providers.”
With Democrats in control of both the House and Senate, Republicans are fighting an uphill battle to get Democrats to change their minds on the legislation.
“It’s my hope that the Democrats will search their heart, search their intellect, change their minds and vote against this,” Arata said.