Democratic governors in 20 states, including Maine, have formed a national coalition to defend access to abortion and contraception in the face of escalating political and legal attacks on reproductive health.

Gov. Janet Mills and the 19 other governors announced the launch of the Reproductive Freedom Alliance on Tuesday.

“While we have strong abortion laws in Maine, this moment requires that states come together to stand for and safeguard reproductive freedom wherever and whenever possible,” Mills said. “So long as I am governor of Maine, I will work to protect and strengthen reproductive rights in our state.”

States must work together to turn back a wave of threats to reproductive health care unleashed since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and left abortion access up to individual states, Mills said. Now more than half of Americans do not have access to safe abortion in their home states.

The network will create a formal method for states to share ideas and best practices that could include model language for bills and executive orders and budgeting strategies to defend or expand abortion rights. It will keep member states up to date on pending legal cases and bills moving through their statehouses.

It will also provide a mechanism for an organized response to national court decisions and government actions that could affect reproductive rights even in member states where abortion is legally accessible, according to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who spent months spearheading the launch.


“For example, a federal judge in Texas could block the use of medication abortion nationwide,” said Mills’ spokesman Ben Goodman. “The alliance provides a forum for states to work together in the wake of this potential ruling, if needed.”

Staff from states participating in the alliance intend to meet regularly to assess progress, risks and new opportunities to protect and strengthen access to reproductive care in their respective states, said Goodman.

That doesn’t mean that coalition member states will be working in lockstep, however, Goodman said.

“While the threats to reproductive freedom we face are common, each state’s circumstances are unique,” Goodman said.  “Each state will determine what actions may be appropriate to further protect and expand reproductive freedom in their jurisdiction. Any actions will be left to each member to determine.”

The coalition is billed as a nonpartisan alliance, open to all governors who support reproductive rights, but as of Tuesday, no Republican-led states have signed up. The only Democrat-led states that have not joined are Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana.

Alliance funding is provided by two California-based philanthropic groups: the Rosenberg Foundation, which promotes racial and economic justice, and California Wellness Foundation, a private healthcare grant-making foundation.


“Defending reproductive freedom is a racial justice issue,” said Rosenberg President Tim Silard. “The foundation is committed to reimagining policies and systems to win fundamental rights, protections, and opportunities for Black, brown, and immigrant communities.”

In the last year, since Roe was struck down, over 36 million women have lost access to abortion, the coalition said in a statement. A federal lawsuit in Texas could soon block access to the most common form of medication abortion. Lawsuits have also been filed to block access to contraception.

“We know they won’t stop there,” the coalition said. “In the face of this unprecedented assault by states hostile to abortion rights and their enablers in the courts, we are pledging to work together to strengthen abortion firewalls across America. This fight isn’t over.”

A federal judge in Texas known for his anti-abortion views could eliminate the most common method of ending an unwanted pregnancy in Maine as early as Friday, forcing local abortion providers to resort to a less-effective form of medication abortion.

Medication abortion accounts for two-thirds of all abortions at two of Maine’s three abortion providers, Maine Family Planning in Augusta and Planned Parenthood in Portland, and half of the abortions at its third, Mabel Wadsworth Center in Bangor.

Maine’s three abortion providers say they will change their medication regimen if the Texas judge rules federal authorities improperly approved mifepristone and they are barred from prescribing it. The drug blocks the production of progesterone and stops a pregnancy from continuing.


Instead, Maine clinicians will prescribe only misoprostol, the second drug used in current medication abortions, which causes the uterus to empty. This is standard practice in countries where mifepristone is too costly or unavailable, but it’s less effective, can require multiple doses and can cause painful cramps.

Since Mills took office in 2018, Maine has adopted laws preventing protesters from blocking abortion clinics and requiring insurance coverage of abortion services. Last month, Mills unveiled a proposed bill to legalize abortion at any point in pregnancy in consultation with a medical provider.

That bill has yet to be printed, so the exact wording is not yet known. In interviews, however, Mills said she wanted to extend access to abortion beyond fetal viability, which occurs at 24 weeks, when deemed necessary in the professional judgment of a health care professional.

Republicans and anti-abortion activists have attacked the bill as a radical assault on the sanctity of life, and framed it as a political flip-flop, the very thing that Mills had accused election rival Paul LePage of doing during the campaign to try to win over moderates.

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