AUGUSTA — Bills to restrict abortion failed in the Maine Legislature this year, but women at a protest on Monday said the passage of a tough anti-abortion bill in Texas signals the need for vigilance.

A half-dozen women waved signs at cars passing through Memorial Circle. Some wore pink because of their affiliation with the activist group Code Pink, while others wore orange T-shirts emblazoned with a stylized uterus and ovaries.

“The war against women’s reproductive autonomy is nationwide,” said Lisa Savage, local coordinator for Code Pink. “It’s really important to stand up to show that women will not be silenced or cowed back into the situation our mothers faced” when abortion was illegal.

Priscilla Jenkins, a Winthrop Town Counciler, said she’s especially incensed by laws in Texas and elsewhere that require women to have transvaginal ultrasounds before early-term abortions.

“It’s outrageous that the government should have any kind of right to prod and pry and require anything that a woman’s doctor doesn’t require,” Jenkins said.

The ultrasound requirement has been part of Texas law since 2011. Texas’ new law bans abortions after 20 weeks, requires doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and mandates that abortions take place in surgical centers, including abortions by non-surgical means.

Winslow resident Mindy Bergeron-Lawrence held a sign that said “Stand With Wendy,” a reference to Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, who stood for 13 hours to filibuster the bill. Davis ran out the clock on the bill, but Gov. Rick Perry called a second special session to give the legislature another chance to pass it.

Inspired by Davis, Bergeron-Lawrence recently stood outside the old post office building in Waterville from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., talking with anyone who passed about women’s reproductive rights.

“I believe that women have the right to control their bodies,” she said Monday. “I don’t believe it’s a politician’s job or my job even to tell them what they can or can’t do with their bodies.”

Advocates for abortion rights have said that 37 of the 42 clinics in Texas that perform abortions could close because they can’t afford to meet the new standards.

Maine Right to Life Executive Director Teresa McCann-Tumidajski said requirements like having admitting privileges within 30 miles make sense because they protect women’s health.

Maine law on contraception and abortion has earned the state an A from NARAL Pro-Choice America, while Americans United for Life rank Maine 31st among states for “defending life.”

All three abortion-related bills supported by Maine Right to Life failed in the Legislature this year.

McCann-Tumidajski said she was happy to see the Texas law pass and that her organization will advocate for abortion limitations until it is fully abolished in Maine and nationwide.

“We will always fight to protect that precious unborn child and also help the woman, who may be feeling alone and vulnerable as she’s experiencing an unplanned pregnancy,” McCann-Tumidajski said. “We look forward to having more pro-life legislation.

Susan McMillan — 621-5645
[email protected]