A draft decision leaked to Politico suggests a majority of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade. A final decision may be more than a month away, but the news already has generated questions and concerns nationwide.

Would a Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade change abortion access in Maine? 

Not immediately. If the Supreme Court were to overrule Roe, it would be up to states to protect access to abortion or to restrict or ban it. Since 1993, the Reproductive Privacy Act has protected abortion rights in Maine state law.

But both advocates for and opponents of abortion rights said Tuesday that the overturning of Roe v. Wade would put more power in the hands of local elected officials to make changes.

“If the Supreme Court allows states to ban abortion, we do not anticipate immediate changes to abortion laws in Maine,” Nicole Clegg, senior vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund, said in a statement. “But elections matter. If a majority of anti-abortion politicians take control of the Legislature or the Blaine House, they could pass laws restricting or even banning abortion.”

“What this decision would do is return the decision to the states,” said Karen Vachon, executive director of the Maine Right to Life Committee. “This decision would go back to the states to decide through the Legislature. … Who we elect really, really matters.”

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What does Maine law say about abortion access?

The Reproductive Privacy Act affirms that it is the public policy of Maine that the state not restrict a woman’s exercise of her private decision to terminate a pregnancy before “viability” – when the fetus has developed enough to be capable of living outside the womb. Viability generally occurs around 22-24 weeks. After viability, an abortion may be performed in Maine only when it is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.

Maine law also includes stipulations with regard to access to abortion for minors under 18, who must provide written consent and the written consent of a parent, guardian or adult family member; receive information and counseling from a health care professional or counselor, including information on alternatives to abortion in addition to providing their individual consent; or obtain a court order allowing for the abortion.

In 2019, Maine passed two laws to further open up abortion access – one requiring public and private insurance to cover abortion and another allowing medical professionals who are not doctors, including nurse practitioners and physician assistants, to perform the procedure.

How do Maine’s abortion laws compare to other states?

Abortion is considered more accessible in Maine than in many other states. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank that supports abortion rights, 26 states, not including Maine, are certain or likely to ban abortion if Roe is overturned.

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Of those, 22 states already have laws or constitutional amendments in place that would make them likely to try to ban abortion as quickly as possible, according to the think tank. Because of their political history, recent efforts to limit access to abortion and other factors, four more states – Florida, Indiana, Montana and Nebraska – would be likely to seek a ban, according to the institute.

Planned Parenthood, which advocates for access to legal abortion, lists 19 states as severely restricting abortion and likely to further restrict or eliminate abortion if Roe is overturned. The organization considers abortion accessible in Maine and says its residents most likely will continue to have access to safe and legal abortions even if Roe is overturned.

How many women get abortions each year in Maine?

In 2019, there were 2,021 abortions performed in Maine, according to the most recent data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Sixty-eight percent were performed at less than nine weeks of gestation.

Most of the women who received abortions – 1,724, or 85 percent – were white. Fifty-five percent were in their 20s and about 31 percent were in their 30s. Eighty percent were not married.

The vast majority – 1,893, or almost 94 percent – were from Maine, while 87 were from New Hampshire and the remainder came from other states or unknown locations.

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Are Maine lawmakers likely to move to restrict abortion access if Roe is overturned?

The Maine Republican Party platform, adopted over the weekend, states that the party believes “in the sanctity of human life – from conception to natural death.” Party officials declined to be interviewed Tuesday or discuss the leaked draft Supreme Court opinion, or to speculate on what a Republican-controlled state government might do.

“Surely we won’t comment on what a group of independent-minded legislators representing a diverse array of Maine communities with their own philosophies and beliefs, who have not even been elected yet, would do,” the party’s executive director, Jason Savage, said in an email. “It would actually be quite a ridiculous assumption for us to think we could somehow predict that scenario, doing so based on an unprecedented ‘leak’ that is not verified crosses into folly.”

The authenticity of the draft opinion has since been verified.

Several Democrats issued statements stressing that abortion remains legal and that they will continue to fight for that right.

“The future of abortion rights in Maine is on the ballot this November,” Maine Democratic Party Chairman Drew Gattine said in a written statement. “We are fortunate to currently have a governor in Janet Mills who is a passionate defender of abortion rights and a Democratically controlled Legislature that will steadfastly protect those rights.”

Staff Writer Randy Billings contributed to this report, which also contains material from The Associated Press.

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