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Political Brew: Overturning Roe, religious school vouchers, and LePage on Asylum Seekers

Our analysts this week are attorney Ken Altshuler, a longtime co-host of the WGAN Morning News, and Raymond selectman and former House Republican Leader Joe Bruno.

MAINE, USA — The U.S. Supreme Court released several major decisions this past week, most notably a ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, eliminating a constitutionally protected right to abortion that has stood for half a century.

The ruling came after the justices heard a challenge to a new law passed in Mississippi that ban abortions after 15 weeks. In a 6-3 vote, the court voted to uphold Mississippi's law.

And then, in a 5-4 vote, the court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Attorney Ken Altshuler says in writing for the majority that Justice Samuel Alito based the decision on the fact that abortion is not mentioned in the Constitution.

"That opens a huge door," says Altshuler, "because there are many things that came under the penumbra of rights of privacy that are not mentioned in the Constitution. We didn't have computers in 1776, let alone gay marriage, let alone contraception."

Joe Bruno says the high court "punted it back to the states, and every state is going to make their own decisions on this."

The ruling may play a part in Maine's gubernatorial election in November.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills was visibly angry about the decision, saying, "It's pretty clear that several judges before they went on the Supreme Court lied to Congress and lied to the American people." Mills said her "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."

Republican nominee Paul LePage, a former governor seeking a return for a third term, describes himself as pro-life but has not said what sort of restrictions on abortion he would support.

Bruno says, "LePage needs to be careful that he doesn't go too far right," because most of Maine is in "the middle of the road" on this issue.

Altshuler believes "this is giving a rallying cry to Democrats."

A decision earlier in the week focused on a case in Maine. The Supreme Court ruled Maine cannot exclude religious schools from tuition voucher programs.

People living in towns with no public high school can choose where their kids attend. Until now, public money could not be used to pay for tuition at religious schools. But the court ruled that the provision violates the Constitution's free exercise clause.

Altshuler says the court "got it exactly wrong. I think it's a bad decision."

Bruno is a selectman in Raymond, which has no high school of its own. "We have people that moved to Raymond just to send their kids to private school because we will pay up to whatever amount we pay to the RSU. Is this going to cost Raymond taxpayers more money? Interesting question."

Paul LePage told the Portland Press Herald he would try to cut state support for asylum seekers by removing their eligibility for assistance to pay for food, shelter, and other needs while awaiting federal authorization to work, which they cannot apply for at least six months. He also said, as he did when he was governor, he would try once again to deny state General Assistance to asylum seekers, which state law now allows.

LePage told the Press Herald he does not believe asylum seekers are here legally because "They didn't go through Ellis Island. They don't have paperwork."

Of course, the famous immigration center at Ellis Island has been closed for seven decades. Joe Bruno thinks that statement was a political mistake but says he believes LePage was "referring to the people that are rushing across the southern border and being shipped all over this country, and then asking for help."

But Ken Altshuler points out, "We're talking about asylum seekers, and the laws are very clear when it comes to asylum seekers. They have certain protections even though they're not citizens."

Both agree a solution to the problem would be to have the federal government allow asylum seekers to start looking for work as quickly as possible after arriving and waiting for their cases to be resolved.

Our analysts also discuss the bipartisan gun safety bill passed by Congress, the impact of the latest public hearings of the House January 6 Committee, and the shrinking number of unenrolled voters in Maine.

NEWS CENTER Maine's Political Brew is taking a hiatus for July and August and will be back after Labor Day.

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