‘A fundamental assault on women’s rights’: Maine politicians react to US Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade

Gov. Mills vows to protect abortion rights, while U.S. Sen. Susan Collins predicts the ruling will further divide the country.

by | June 24, 2022

Protestors gathered May 3 in Portland to show their opposition to the leaked U.S. Supreme Court opinion poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. Photo by Rose Lundy.

Gov. Janet Mills Friday pledged to use her power to protect the right to safe and legal abortion in Maine in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“In Maine, I will defend the right to reproductive health care with everything I have, and I pledge to the people of Maine that, so long as I am Governor, my veto pen will stand in the way of any effort to undermine, rollback, or outright eliminate the right to safe and legal abortion in Maine,” Mills, a Democrat, said in a statement after the ruling Friday.

Mills’ Republican opponent in the November election, former Gov. Paul LePage, issued a statement when a draft of the abortion decision leaked several weeks ago. In it, he said he has a “proven history of supporting Life” but did not take a specific position on overturning Roe.

The U.S. Supreme Court Friday morning voted to overturn a nearly 50-year-old ruling that established the right to an abortion. The decision will allow many conservative states to sharply restrict abortion, but leave others, including Maine, to permit the procedure.  

Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division,” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote, according to The Washington Post. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

All three of former President Donald Trump’s nominees to the court voted in the majority.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, voted for justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, both of whom were in the majority. Collins’ vote for Kavanaugh was especially crucial. He was confirmed 50-48.

In a statement Friday afternoon, Collins said the ruling “is a sudden and radical jolt to the country that will lead to political chaos, anger, and a further loss of confidence in our government.”

She added that “This decision is inconsistent with what Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh said in their testimony and their meetings with me, where they both were insistent on the importance of supporting long-standing precedents that the country has relied upon.”

A lengthy June 2 article in the Washington Post opinion section noted that Collins made a “spectacular bet” when she said she believed Kavanaugh’s reported assurance that the Roe v. Wade decision was settled law. The Post pointed out Collins supported Gorsuch, who said judicial precedent as “the anchor of the law.’’

After the decision leaked, Collins drew intense scrutiny. She suggested Gorsuch and Kavanaugh indicated during the confirmation process that they would not overturn the historic abortion decision. 

“If this leaked draft opinion is the final decision and this reporting is accurate, it would be completely inconsistent with what Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh said in their hearings and in our meetings in my office,’’ she said in a statement when the draft decision leaked. 

Sen. Angus King, an Independent, said Friday that the court’s decision laid “terrifying groundwork” to undo other civil rights.

“Today’s decision to overturn nearly half a century of precedent upon precedent is a dangerous, blatantly political ruling that will rob millions of women the fundamental right to make decisions about their own health, safety, and lives,” King said in a statement.

Members of the Maine state government and the state’s Congressional Delegation have been reacting to the decision. 

Governor Janet Mills

“This decision is a fundamental assault on women’s rights and on reproductive freedom that will do nothing to stop abortion. In fact, it will only make abortion less safe and jeopardize the lives of women across the nation. In Maine, I will defend the right to reproductive health care with everything I have, and I pledge to the people of Maine that, so long as I am Governor, my veto pen will stand in the way of any effort to undermine, rollback, or outright eliminate the right to safe and legal abortion in Maine.”

 

Former Gov. Paul LePage (earlier statement)

“Maine state law already prohibits abortion after viability and our laws should keep pace with modern, medical technology. Late term abortions are extremely disturbing to most Maine people. The case before the U.S. Supreme Court is on state prohibitions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

“Governors receive Legislation on their desk from locally elected State Representatives and State Senators. In Maine, our local officials listen to the people. As Governor I have a proven history of supporting Life, including helping our most vulnerable women and children facing domestic abuse to our vulnerable senior citizens.”

U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree in a social media video address: 

“Women and families and people around this country are terrified. We have seen some of the most extreme language in legislation being passed in states around the country. Things that go far beyond anything that the American public would ever accept. 

“We are a country that believes in a woman’s right to choose. I’m really proud I come from a state where I was part of the state legislature back in 1993 when we codified Roe v. Wade and put that into our law and we have a very strong governor and a legislature right now that’s going to protect that. 

“But we need federal law. We need federal passage of legislation that will protect everyone. And frankly, we need a Supreme Court that will protect our rights. I was really proud to stand up for the Women’s Protection Act. Every Republican voted against it. But those are the kinds of laws that we need to make sure that whatever state you live in, your rights will be protected.”

 

U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree written statement: 

“Today’s catastrophic ruling is the culmination of a decades-long effort by Republican extremists to install anti-choice justices on a High Court that routinely overrules Congress and the public’s will with impunity. Enabled by Senate Republicans, this shamefully partisan Supreme Court has decided against the more than 70% of Americans who want Roe v. Wade upheld. 

“Government control of reproduction is downright totalitarian. It is never in the best interest of society for politicians to decide when a person must give birth. Today’s ruling is rooted in ideological zealotry, not the common good. As a direct result of this decision, women will now be jailed for seeking abortion care while others will die because of pregnancy complications and unsafe self-abortion treatments. 

“Adding insult to injury, Justice Alito and his colleagues in the majority have demonstrated a crushing ignorance about the historical rights of women under our Constitution – women were unenfranchised and regarded as property when our nation was founded. We should not strive to return to that dark era. Six radical justices, appointed by Presidents who lost the popular vote, have destroyed nearly 50 years of established legal precedent upon which tens of millions of people in this country have relied. In Roe’s place, the justices’ personal beliefs will impose unimaginable suffering for women and families across the country and worsen America’s already abysmal generational poverty crisis.”

 

U.S. Senator Angus King: 

“Today’s decision to overturn nearly half a century of precedent upon precedent is a dangerous, blatantly political ruling that will rob millions of women the fundamental right to make decisions about their own health, safety, and lives. The right to a safe, legal abortion has been reaffirmed by the Court time and time again – but this new majority has decided to overwrite longstanding precedent to impose their own personal and religious views on women across the country. This ruling goes against the wishes of the majority of Americans, and lays a terrifying groundwork for this Court to unravel many other hard-earned civil rights in the years ahead.

“This decision is deeply infuriating, but it is unfortunately not a surprise. Beyond being telegraphed in the leaked decision earlier this year, this decision firmly aligns with the clear, decades-long conservative campaign to fill our nation’s court system with ideologically-driven judges who would vote to end abortion access. This goal was made explicit by former President Donald Trump, who promised to only appoint judges who would overturn Roe. This promise, along with each nominee’s clear hostility towards a woman’s right to choose, were among the main reasons that I voted against Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett. For all the fear-mongering about so-called ‘judicial activism’ by some conservative lawmakers, their chosen judges clearly do not hesitate to overturn precedent, override popular sentiment, and overreach beyond the Court’s historic incremental approach.  

“The impacts of this ruling will reverberate in communities throughout America – but fortunately, Maine women will not be denied this basic right thanks to protections in our state constitution and the leadership of Governor Mills. However, this does not change the fact that far too many across the country will not be so lucky, and will be penalized for the crime of living in the wrong state. This decision will make healthcare services more difficult to access for millions, and the lives of low-income Americans who cannot afford to travel to a state where abortion is legal will be unnecessarily put at risk. Let me be clear, this decision will not lead to the banning of abortion, no matter how earnestly its opponents and the majority of this court may desire it. What it will do is facilitate the banning of safe abortions, to the detriment of women in all corners of our country.

“While there is no clear or easy path to reverse this decision, I will continue doing everything in my power to protect this fundamental right. I will pursue any possible compromise and will not rest until women across the nation can once again make this personal decision with the input of loved ones and medical professionals – not the government.”

 

U.S. Senator Susan Collins: 

“The threshold question of whether abortion is legal needs to be consistent at a national level. States can account for regional differences with regulations like parental notification requirements, but the basic right needs to be the same for all American women.

“The Supreme Court has abandoned a fifty-year precedent at a time that the country is desperate for stability. This ill-considered action will further divide the country at a moment when, more than ever in modern times, we need the Court to show both consistency and restraint. Throwing out a precedent overnight that the country has relied upon for half a century is not conservative. It is a sudden and radical jolt to the country that will lead to political chaos, anger, and a further loss of confidence in our government.

“This decision is inconsistent with what Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh said in their testimony and their meetings with me, where they both were insistent on the importance of supporting long-standing precedents that the country has relied upon.

“Earlier this year, Senator Murkowski and I introduced the Reproductive Choice Act to codify the abortion rights established by Roe v. Wade and affirmed by Planned Parenthood v. Casey. I am also working with Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) on a bipartisan bill that would codify RoeCaseyWhole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, and Griswold v. Connecticut. Our legislation would enshrine important abortion protections into law without undercutting statutes that have been in place for decades and without eliminating basic conscience protections that are relied upon by health care providers who have religious objections to performing abortions.

“Our goal with this legislation is to do what the Court should have done — provide the consistency in our abortion laws that Americans have relied upon for 50 years.”

 

Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey

“Even with the knowledge that the Supreme Court was poised to overturn the longstanding precedent in Roe v. Wade, I still find myself gutted by this reality. Today’s decision, coupled with the Court’s decision in Carson v. Makin, is the culmination of years of work by the religious right to use personally held beliefs to control public life, and now, literally what control women have over their bodies.

“It also signals the extremity of the values represented in the majority of the Supreme Court and its casual willingness to undermine any respect for precedent in achieving its desired ends. That said, I want to be clear: despite this decision, abortion remains legal in Maine. But now we have been reminded that this right is vulnerable and requires vigorous protection. Maine policymakers are now the last line of defense of this right. I promise that as Attorney General, I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure unfettered access to abortion services.”

 

State Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Allagash)

“Unfortunately, today’s devastating decision made by a conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court to restrict the right to an abortion and erode almost 50 years of precedent does not come as a shock. However, that doesn’t make this reality any easier to swallow nor does it do much to alleviate the fear that millions of Mainers and Americans are experiencing. 

“The right to decide if and when to start a family is fundamental to who we are as Americans and our freedom. It’s a deeply personal decision that should not be made by politicians or justices. In the wake of this decision, please know that Maine Senate Democrats will fight back against efforts to undermine abortion rights and stand united for reproductive freedom.”

 

Senate Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli (D-Arrowsic)

“There are those of us who remember a time before Roe v. Wade — when people were forced to go underground and put their lives on the line to access an abortion. Far too many of us know far too well that banning abortion doesn’t stop people from getting abortions, it just stops people from getting safe abortions. 

“This ruling from the Supreme Court is unconscionable. Rather than protecting the sanctity of life, it will only endanger the lives of everyday people. I vowed in my youth to fight for the right to access abortion care, and it’s clear this fight is far from over. I join with countless people across our state when I say, despite this decision handed down to us from Washington, Maine will not go back.”

 

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Mattie Daughtry (D-Brunswick)

“Abortion is health care, and health care is a human right. No health care decision is made easier or better by having a politician or judge get in the way. What the Supreme Court has done today will hurt people across our country, but especially those who are already marginalized — people of color, people from low-income households, and people trying to survive domestic abuse. 

“I’m proud that our Legislature has done so much in the past few years to ensure Mainers have access to quality reproductive health care, regardless of how much money they make or where they live. Maine lawmakers will continue to do all we can to protect this right, even as those who sit on the highest court of the land fail us.”

 

George Harvey and David Dahl contributed to this reporting. This story will be updated as additional prominent Maine politicians release statements. To stay updated on the latest, continue to check back and signup to receive our free newsletters.

Rose Lundy

Rose Lundy

Rose Lundy is the public health reporter for The Maine Monitor, and is a 2020 Report for America corps member. Rose previously covered politics and local government for three years at The Daily News in southwest Washington. She grew up in Minnesota and graduated from the University of Wisconsin.


RECENT ARTICLES