Rep. Reagan Paul, R-Winterport, speaks to a crowded conference room about “Understanding Chemical Abortion” during a Hands at the Capitol event at the Maine State House in Augusta on Tuesday. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Energized by the fall of Roe v. Wade, Maine anti-abortion activists flooded the Capitol on Tuesday in hopes of blocking the expansion of abortion access in this decidedly blue state.

“It’s exciting, I never thought I would live to see a post-Roe era,” said Barbara Ford, who runs the Shepherd’s Godparent Home in Bangor, a pregnancy crisis center. “But now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe, we have much to do here in Maine.”

Ford told the crowd of more than 250 people gathered in the Hall of Flags that Gov. Janet Mills is mounting an aggressive pro-abortion campaign from the Blaine House. She urged those in attendance to speak out against legislation proposed by Mills that would legalize abortion after viability with a doctor’s approval, as well as five others that would expand abortion access in Maine. One of those bills targets pregnancy crisis centers like Shepherd’s Godparent.

Advocates of expanded abortion access stayed away from Tuesday’s event, letting anti-abortion activists have their day and saying that they plan to show up in force when bills are heard by committees. Republican lawmakers mingled among the crowd, but Democratic lawmakers steered clear. They remain confident that last fall’s election – which saw Mills handily beat Republican Paul LePage, who is personally opposed to abortion – is a sign that voters have spoken.

“Abortion care is medical care, yet across the country fundamental rights and freedoms are being taken away or restricted at an alarming rate,” said House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland. “But the opposite is happening here in Maine. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure that reproductive health care and family planning is affordable and accessible in every part of the state.”

State lawmakers will be considering a dozen abortion bills this legislative session: six would expand access and six would restrict it.


Anti-abortion advocates want to repeal the 2019 law requiring MaineCare to cover abortion services and prohibit the use of telehealth and mail to provide medication abortions. They also want to block efforts to enshrine abortion protections in the state constitution, a bill that would cover abortion co-payments, and protection for abortion providers who care for out-of-state patients from malpractice or license revocation for breaking the anti-abortion laws in that patient’s home state.

On Tuesday, advocates focused on a bill that would prohibit pregnancy crisis centers from issuing deceptive or misleading information about pregnancy, pregnancy prevention or abortion. Pregnancy centers have come under fire for posing as reproductive healthcare clinics to attract pregnant women who might be seeking an abortion so that they can persuade them not to with upsetting or even inaccurate information. But advocates say they aren’t bullies, and instead are being bullied by the “abortion industry.”

Ford said Shepherd’s Godparent provides pregnant women with medical care, food and a place to live for free and then, after the birth, they add on free diapers, clothes and parenting help.

“They say you pro-lifers only care until the baby is born,” Ford told the crowd. “Guess what? We care after that baby’s born.”

The only one of the dozen abortion-related bills to have had a public hearing yet is L.D. 530, a bill from Rep. Bruce White, D-Waterville, that would allow safe haven baby boxes to be installed at hospitals, fire stations and police departments whether the state adopts rules for doing so or not. Mills’ bill has not been published yet and is languishing in the Revisor’s Office as language is worked out. The other bills are pending before committees, awaiting hearing dates.

After the half-hour program of speeches, the crowd broke into workshops that focused on how to lobby a state lawmaker and briefings on this session’s abortion bills. Some held hands and prayed in corners of the statehouse, while others marched through hallways carrying their placards or encouraging their children to approach lawmakers with pamphlets. Many said they would return to Augusta when public hearings on the bills will be held.

“I’ve never done anything like this before, but it’s time,” said Chris Martin of Lewiston, a newcomer to Maine who took a day off from work to attend. He had just finished praying with some new friends. “But it is time. I just had my first child and it was hard, I wasn’t ready, but now I know. A life is a life.”


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