Skip to content Skip to footer

Maine State Judiciary Committee Advances Bill That Loosens Abortion Restrictions

The bill grants physicians the ability to decide if an abortion is needed after the 24th week of pregnancy.

Gov. Janet Mills delivers remarks at the SelectUSA Investment Summit on May 4, 2023, in National Harbor, Maryland.

A measure to loosen abortion restrictions in Maine has advanced within the state legislature, with both houses voting on the proposal potentially as soon as this week.

The measure — which was proposed by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills and passed by the state legislature’s joint judiciary committee — will allow abortions in certain circumstances, with a physician’s approval, beyond the state’s current timeline.

The measure passed by a 7-3 vote on Friday. The bill now advances to each house of the state legislature, both of which are controlled by Democrats. The bill is likely to pass both houses and become law upon reaching Mills’s desk.

Currently, state law restricts abortions beyond viability, usually viewed as the 24th week of pregnancy by the state’s standards, unless a pregnant person’s life is at risk. Under the new bill, however, exceptions can be made whenever a physician deems an abortion medically necessary, removing any ambiguities over whether the procedure meets a “life-saving” threshold or not.

Such ambiguities in statutes elsewhere in the country have resulted in physicians becoming reluctant to provide abortions, even in circumstances in which the fetus is no longer viable and the pregnant person’s health is in grave danger. Such a case made national headlines in Tennessee, for instance, when a woman who needed abortion care was denied access to the procedure, resulting in her health deteriorating so badly that she was eventually forced to undergo emergency surgery that included getting a hysterectomy she didn’t want.

Anti-abortion activists have rallied against the Maine bill, with many voicing disdain over its loosening of abortion restrictions at a hearing in May. Republicans in the state legislature are also vehemently opposed to the potentially lifesaving bill, claiming in a recent statement that the proposal is too extreme.

The governor has rejected those viewpoints, however. Just before the hearing last month, Mills defended the new proposal, denouncing the current law as “extreme” because it forces a person “to become dangerously ill” before they can terminate pregnancies that are likely non-viable.

Abortion advocates celebrated the bill’s advancement last week.

“Abortion is HEALTH CARE and you can’t put an arbitrary timestamp on getting the help you need,” wrote the Twitter account for the nonprofit group Abortion Access Front.

And in a recent news report from WMTW out of Portland, Maine, Nicole Clegg, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, rejected the premise from anti-abortionists that the measure went too far.

“This isn’t radical. This is about recognizing that pregnancy is a complicated physical experience, and there are lots of circumstances that our laws don’t account for right now,” Clegg said. “It’s about providing that care.”

We have 3 days to raise $33,000 — we’re counting on your support!

For those who care about justice, liberation and even the very survival of our species, we must remember our power to take action.

We won’t pretend it’s the only thing you can or should do, but one small step is to pitch in to support Truthout — as one of the last remaining truly independent, nonprofit, reader-funded news platforms, your gift will help keep the facts flowing freely.