A half a century ago, a tall, thin young woman, the sister of the groom and new sister-in-law of my best friend, stood at the altar in a beautiful bridesmaid dress that perfectly matched her striking green eyes. I dreamed of being her, a college co-ed filled with dreams. I imagined the choices she’d make, the loves she’d encounter, and the life she’d create in a world that I, a young teenager, was just starting to make sense of.


Maine House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross speaks in favor of a proposal to amend the Maine Constitution to enshrine the right to an abortion at the Maine State House on Jan. 22, in Augusta. David Sharp/Associated Press

Two weeks later, she was dead due to an illegal abortion. Had it been one year later, she could still be here; a little older than me, maybe a mother and grandmother like me, perhaps retired from a long, fulfilling career. Had it been one year later, her right to legal and supportive health care honoring women’s right to reproductive freedom would have saved her. The decision she made would have been a sad moment, one she thought about often, and one that gave her a long, fulfilling life. Instead, she died at age 21.

Here I am, some 50 years later, fighting for that same right. During my lifetime, women’s rights have grown and opened new opportunities for me to raise three healthy sons while I grew a thriving accounting practice. I supported people’s right to reproductive freedom by serving on the board of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England for 13 years. I watched our clinics spread across three rural states supporting women’s health care in remote areas. I was proud of the robust school sex education programs that taught our children how to make healthy decisions. And our overseas programs shared this vital knowledge with developing countries.

And then, for political reasons, I watched those same programs shrink. First, the overseas programs died under a global gag rule, then the loss of school funding drained educational programs making them a trickle of their former selves, and finally clinics closed as government financial support dried up. And now, this basic human right is being attacked from all sides. All in the name of politics.

Our right to reproductive freedom is being stripped away by politically motivated legislation that slowly picks away with a new law here, another law there. We’ve been lucky to live in Maine where a majority of lawmakers have protected this right. But should our right to reproductive freedom depend on where we live? Should a woman be forced to leave her state, her home, and her support system just to get basic health care?

We in Maine cannot sit blithely on our hands. Maine has been a leader for many things that other states have been slow to adopt, things that protect our environment, our children, and our future. It is time for us to lead again. Maine lawmakers are considering a resolution that would enshrine the constitutional right to reproductive autonomy. Passing this resolution would let the people of Maine decide its future because this is not just a women’s issue. It is one for all genders and all ages. And, as such, each and every Maine resident of voting age must demand that this bill be moved forward.

Imagine your friend, sister, or daughter, in the place of that beautiful young woman I watched over 50 years ago. At the altar that day, she dreamed of her brother and his bride’s new life. Of the children they would bring into her life. She wanted the same for herself. But for reasons we’ll never know, it was not the right time. Her reasons don’t matter, they are not for us to judge. But we can be judged for the consequences of the deadly decision she was forced to make 50 years ago.

Please don’t let it happen again. Demand to be heard. Contact your legislator today to demand passage of L.D. 780.

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