The Maine State Legislature held a 19-hour session this week in regard to the topic of abortion, after Democrat Governor Janet Mills and House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross introduced a bill that would legalize abortion after fetal viability, or around 24 weeks of pregnancy.
According to WMTW, opponents of the bill outnumbered the supporters, leading to the session that began on Monday at noon and stretched into Tuesday.
Hundreds of Mainers, including 675 who opposed the bill, had signed up in advance to address the Judiciary Committee during the hearing, speaking for two minutes at a time.
Penny and Eric Winter were some of those speaking in opposition, waiting two hours in the rain on Monday to sign up to speak.
“I believe viable children need to be protected,” Penny Winter said in an interview ahead of their testimony.
“We’re not talking about something done to some helpless tissue. This is a body with arms and legs and a heartbeat and face that is exposed to abortion by this bill,” Eric Winter added.
Ann Dowdy brought one of her six children, her daughter Rejoice, to the meeting. Rejoice was born prematurely at 24 weeks and spent three months in a neonatal intensive care unit.
“I think it is wrong to be killing our babies when they could be living. My daughter was born at 24 weeks gestation here in Augusta almost two years ago,” Dowdy said in an interview.
Audrey Wimmer, testifying against the bill Monday night, said, “If a baby can survive outside its mother, that means that it is alive. It has a life. By terminating viable pregnancies, we are being shown that lives don’t matter, and that isn’t important.”
Leading up to the hearing, opponents of the bill gathered in the State House’s Hall of Flags for a Speak Up For Life rally.
Barbara Ford, of Godparent Home Ministries, told the crowd, “Governor Mills may be the leader of this state, but we say, ‘Governor, we know you’re wrong.’”
“The abortion bills are a radical expansion of abortion that are both unnecessary and inhumane,” said Sen. Lisa Keim, (R) Assistant Minority Leader. “Government should not be in the business of promoting death of the unborn.”
“We are here to say ‘no’ to late-term abortion. We are here to say ‘no’ to killing babies that would survive outside their mother’s womb,” said State Rep. Laurel Libby.
According to the Bangor Daily News, around 65 people testified in support of the bill.
One of which was Zoe Reich, a mother of two, who said that she had to abort her first pregnancy after doctors discovered severe fetal anomalies after 24 weeks. She had to travel to Colorado to receive an abortion at that stage of pregnancy.
“I was denied critical abortion care when I needed it the most, because of a cruel and arbitrary timeline set by politicians and not doctors,” Reich testified. “This was the hardest, most heartbreaking, gut-wrenching situation anyone could ever face.”
Dana Pierce, whose story prompted the bill from Mills, testified that at her 32-week ultrasound, it was revealed that her baby had a lethal, rare genetic mutation that would have prevented the child from breathing outside of the womb.
“He faced death by suffocation if he survived delivery,” Peirce said, ultimately choosing to have an abortion, but she also had to travel to another state to find a willing provider.
The bill, HP 1044/LD 1619, changes the line that previously stated “After viability an abortion may be performed only when it is necessary 20 to preserve the life or health of the mother” to “After viability an abortion may be performed only when it is necessary in the professional judgment of a physician licensed pursuant to Title 32, chapter 36 or 48.”
Speaking before the hearing Mills said, “What is extreme is forcing a woman to become dangerously ill from her pregnancy in order to access abortion care. What is extreme is forcing a woman to give birth to a child who is going to immediately die. What is extreme is forcing a woman to leave her state to seek health care.”
“We trust medical professionals to provide care that is in their medical judgment,” Talbot Ross said. “This legislation is compassionate. It is bound by science and best medical practices, and it recognizes abortion as health care.”
The hearing comes as Oregon’s House passed a bill allowing for children of any age to receive an abortion without parental knowledge.