When the COVID-19 pandemic reached Maine last spring, we knew Planned Parenthood of Northern New England had an important role to play in maintaining time-sensitive and urgent care for our patients and alleviating the burden for providers testing and treating COVID-19 patients. It was critical that we meet the needs of our communities.

For many patients, Planned Parenthood is their only source of health care. The unfortunate reality is the pandemic has made existing barriers to care worse for many of the communities we serve. This is especially true for people of color, LGBTQ people, people who live in rural areas, people struggling financially and people who are uninsured, as well as for our staff, who had to rapidly identify new ways to deliver care safely.

PPNNE is one of many Medicaid and social safety net providers stepping up to meet the health care challenges facing our communities. Unfortunately, in the midst of a global public health pandemic, a handful of Maine legislators have starkly different priorities, introducing an unprecedented number of bills aimed at taking away reproductive health care and shaming people who have made the decision to have an abortion.

These are unprecedented times and people are hurting. It’s shocking that some politicians have decided that judging those who need an abortion is what people want or that bills to deny health care or take away health insurance coverage are the right approach to a public health pandemic.

This flies in the face of the views of Mainers.

National and state polling finds that 77 percent of Americans support safe, legal abortion and that no matter respondents’ personal feelings about abortion, they want the experience to be supportive (83 percent), affordable (79 percent), available in their community (79 percent), without added burdens (76 percent), and covered by insurance (70 percent).

We come to our feelings about abortion through our lived experiences, and what’s clear is that even though our views vary, we want someone who needs an abortion to be supported, not shamed, and given medically accurate information, not lies.

As we mark the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the new anti-reproductive rights majority of the Supreme Court issued its first decision in support of medically unnecessary abortion restrictions – a painful reminder that we can no longer count on the courts to protect our health and rights.

Indeed, the best way to ensure abortion remains a safe and legal option for all people is to keep bills aimed at taking away people’s rights from becoming law. Since 2011, politicians have enacted 480 laws to restrict access to abortion in state legislatures. Now the Maine Legislature is poised to address similar proposals this year, an unfortunate distraction from the critical work Maine’s elected leaders are needed to do for the health and well-being of our state.

Dressed up in faux concern for reproductive health care, these bills are just another tactic to shame and judge people who need an abortion by spreading lies and misinformation and stoking fears and harassing patients and medical professionals who provide abortion care.

Instead of respecting each person’s decision and acknowledging the complexities of medical care, anti-abortion politicians offer shame, judgment, misinformation and lies to inflame tensions.

We’ve seen the dangers of hateful, inaccurate rhetoric and we should not tolerate it – whether it comes in the guise of false narratives about election results or lies about science and medical care.

The Portland Press Herald editorial board has called on the sponsors of these bills to withdraw them and look for more constructive ways to serve their constituents over the next two years.

We agree.

These bills don’t belong in Maine, even more so at this point in time. But if these politicians decide to force their way ahead, they will be met by advocates, patients, and supporters from across the state committed to protecting the reproductive freedom Roe established nearly a half-century ago.


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