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Religious leaders rally in opposition to abortion expansion bill ahead of expected vote

The proposed bill would change state law to allow abortion after fetal viability if it’s deemed necessary by a physician.

LEWISTON, Maine — As the end of the current Maine Legislative session draws near, Mainers continue to voice their opinion on several major pieces of legislation still waiting for a vote. 

Outside Lewiston's city hall Wednesday, Christian and Islamic religious leaders of held a press conference in opposition to L.D. 1619. 

That bill, proposed by Gov. Janet Mills, seeks to expand abortion access to any point in pregnancy, as long as a medical provider has said it would be medically necessary.

“We’re here because we’re against a very, very bad piece of legislation,” Carroll Conley, the executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, said Wednesday. 

Conley and Sheikh Saleh Mahamud, Imam of Lewiston-Auburn Islamic Center; Sheikh Abdikadir Abayle, Imam Masjida Salaam released a joint statement during the press conference. 

“A common and central teaching in our religious and faith communities is that God, the Creator, is the author of life; therefore, we believe and practice the sanctity of human life: all children (born and unborn) are a gift from God and are truly our heritage,” the statement read in part. 

Local Muslim leaders added they are "completely against this bill.” 

Credit: NEWS CENTER Maine

Joel Furrow is the executive director of The Root Cellar, a faith-based volunteer organization in Portland and Lewiston. He and other Christian leaders said while the two religions may have other differences, they both oppose L.D. 1619. 

“We stand together, united against this bill, it’s way too extreme for our communities,” he added. 

Conley also commented on this sign of unity after the press conference. 

“It gives us optimism about the future, and maybe being able to work together on some other things we hold in common value,” he added. 

Meanwhile in Augusta, those in opposition and in support of the key abortion bill continue to walk the halls of the State House trying to be seen by lawmakers. 

Many have been in the building for days waiting for the Maine House to vote on L.D. 1619. 

“I’m incredibly supportive of abortion rights and reproduction rights and supporting women and families in Maine,” Planned Parenthood volunteer Becky Lomangino said. “It’s frustrating to see that we’re still fighting this battle that should have been won by now.” 

Lomangino said she has been a volunteer with the nonprofit for seven years, doing whatever she can to help the organization, which has included letting lawmakers know there are Mainers who back this bill. 

“To come here and be a presence and to show our support is important,” she added. 

Conley said he is organizing another display of opposition to L.D. 1619 Wednesday night at the State House, inviting Mainers to pray and sing together, rather than host a typical protest. 

Maine legislators did not take any action on the bill Wednesday. However, there were several abortion-related bills that did see a vote.  

The Senate passed a bill that would ensure protection to abortion providers who assist women traveling from other states and seeking an abortion. 

Lawmakers in the Senate also passed a bill Wednesday that gives the State exclusive legislative control over abortion rights, so no municipalities can make their own laws. The Senate also passed legislation that prohibits private health insurers from imposing any deductible, copayment, coinsurance, or other cost-sharing requirement for the costs of abortion services. 

The House and Senate also voted down bills that would restrict abortion access and services.  

One would have required providers to give pregnant women seeking an abortion an ultrasound and require them to wait 48 hours before the abortion. The second would have prohibited telehealth providers from prescribing abortion bills. The third would have banned tax-payer funds to be used for abortion procedures. 

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