AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Gov. Janet Mills and legislative leaders want to expand access to abortion — allowing abortions after 24 weeks with a doctor’s approval — and take steps to protect health care providers by updating data collection policies.
One of the bills would allow abortion access anytime before birth if deemed necessary by a physician. Current state law bans abortions after a fetus becomes viable outside the womb, at roughly 24 weeks.
Mills, a Democrat, cited the case of a Yarmouth veterinarian, Dana Peirce, who was forced to travel to Colorado for an abortion because it was forbidden in Maine later in pregnancy. Peirce's tests at 32 weeks revealed that the fetus had a deadly form of skeletal dysplasia.
“The decision to have an abortion is deeply personal and, as in Dana’s case, can be heartbreaking. Fundamentally, these are decisions that should be made by a woman and her medical provider,” Mills said.
The announcement by Mills, House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross and Senate President Troy Jackson — all Democrats — came days ahead of what would've been the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which the U.S. Supreme Court overturned last June.
The lawmakers contended that one in three women across the country have lost access to safe, legal abortions since states began banning the procedure.
Talbot Ross said Maine is going to protect abortion access and health care providers. “We are serving as a light that inspires others around the country by protecting those who need it and showing exactly how to fight back," she said.
Republicans were working on a statement in response to the announcement.
In Maine, a Republican governor in 1993 signed a law affirming the right to abortion before a fetus is viable. Under current law, abortion is only allowed after that if the life or health of the person who is pregnant is at risk, or if the pregnancy is no longer viable.
Mills said she hasn’t made a decision on whether Maine should put forward a constitutional amendment to enshrine the state law. She said the matter is currently under review by the attorney general.
Peirce said she was shocked to learn during a routine screening that her son — she'd already named him Cameron — had a deadly condition and was suffering in the womb from a broken bone and other problems.
Mills said that no one should have to go through what Peirce went through — and to have to seek health care in another state for something that was medically recommended.
“This was a really sad thing to happen. We did our best. I'm doing my best now to change it for other people,” Mills said.