Candidates for Congress from Maine are sticking with their stated positions on abortion amidst a raging national debate on the topic triggered by controversial statements from a Republican congressman and a plank in the party’s national platform.

Five of seven major congressional candidates in Maine, including two of three Republicans and three frontrunners for the state’s soon-to-be-open Senate seat, are pro-choice on abortion.

The U.S. Senate seat to be vacated by pro-choice Republican Olympia Snowe will almost surely stay pro-choice. The major candidates, Republican Charlie Summers, independent Angus King and Democrat Cynthia Dill, are all pro-choice.

In the 1st Congressional District, incumbent Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree supports abortion, while Jon Courtney, a Republican, is opposed.

“I’ve always been clear. I oppose abortion except in the cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother. I’ll leave it at that,” Courtney said. “I’m worried about jobs and the economy.”

In Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, Rep. Mike Michaud, the five-term incumbent Democrat, is more conservative than Republican Kevin Raye on the issue.

Michaud’s chief of staff, Peter Chandler, said he’s neither pro-choice or anti-abortion. Michaud has been called anti-abortion by many, but NARAL Pro-Choice America, a pro-choice interest group, has called Michaud mixed-choice, citing votes in each direction. In a prepared statement, Chandler said Michaud “has carefully weighed issues related to abortion and family planning.”

Raye’s campaign did not return messages seeking comment Wednesday.

However, Raye said earlier this year, “Early in pregnancy, government has no appropriate role in the decision (about abortion). With respect to later-term pregnancy, I would vote to ban all post-viability abortions except those necessary to save the life of the woman and prevent severe physical harm to her health.”

Summers and Raye are at odds with a plank in their party’s proposed national platform: opposition to abortion with no exceptions, including rape and incest, with a constitutional amendment to cinch it.

Debate on the platform has flared because of the controversy surrounding U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Missouri, who said in a Sunday interview that women’s bodies can “shut that whole thing down” during rape, making pregnancy unlikely.

That drew repudiation from many in his party, including presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Raye, Summers and Snowe. All said Akin should either resign from Congress or quit his race for U.S. Senate.

James Melcher, a professor of political science at the University of Maine at Farmington, said that without the Akin controversy, the proposed Republican platform wouldn’t get much attention.

He said platforms are generally formulated by teams that have more extreme views than the average person in a party and end up having little effect on races.

“Platforms don’t bind anybody to anything,” he said. “A platform is a general philosophy.”

The national GOP platform had similar abortion language in 2000, 2004 and 2008, according to CNN.

Maine Democrats in federal races came out swinging against the Republican Party’s abortion plank.

“This plank of the GOP platform is no different than what Akin said: end abortions for everyone in any situation,” said Pingree in a prepared statement. “For a party that claims to advocate for smaller government, the GOP’s number one concern seems to be taking very personal decisions out of the hands of women across the country.”

Dill, of Cape Elizabeth, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, called the plank’s inclusion “dangerous and terrifying.”

“It actually places the woman at the absolute lowest level of concern,” she said. “A woman’s body is of no concern to the Republicans.”

Independent Angus King, of Brunswick, had no comment on either the Republican or Democratic platforms and conventions, said campaign spokeswoman Crystal Canney. She restated what she called King’s longtime stance: abortion should be safe, available, and rare and there should be no government interference in a woman’s health decisions.

 

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