Elayne Richard, center, stands in front of CareNet in Brunswick. Richard is a member of the Maine-based nonprofit Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights, also known as GRR!. The nonprofit’s goal is to protect reproductive rights and abortion accessibility for the next generations. Photo courtesy of Elayne Richard

As activists, Elayne Richard and Lisa Kushner still fight every day against poverty, racism and wars — and nearly 50 years after the decision of Roe v. Wade, they did not think they would still have to fight for women’s health and the right to have an abortion.  

“I’m not surprised this was coming, but it really makes me mad,” said Richard, who lives in central Maine. “I saw it coming, but I can’t believe it’s here.” 

Richard, 68, and Kushner, 75, are members of the Maine-based nonprofit Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights, also known as GRR!. The nonprofit’s goal is to protect reproductive rights and abortion accessibility for the next generations. 

“We remember what it’s like; we don’t want (the younger generation) to keep going through this. It’s so unfair and has made a big dent in our psyche,” Kushner said. “We want it to stop.” 

Kushner, who lives in Mid-coast Maine, had an abortion in 1966, before the landmark Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision that declared in 1973 a fundamental right to choose to have an abortion.

And now, in 2022, they are still fighting for the right. 


On Friday, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, making abortions illegal in states where there are no protections.  

Thirteen states have already passed “trigger laws,” where if Roe v. Wade was overturned on the national level, it would automatically be overturned at the state level. The trigger laws are in Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky. In all, 26 states are likely to ban abortion. 

In Maine, reproductive rights are protected under the Reproduction Privacy Act, which says the state cannot restrict a “woman’s exercise of her private decision to terminate a pregnancy before viability.” If an abortion is performed after viability, it must be to protect the life, or health, of the mother. Because of this law, people in Maine will continue to have access to abortion even after Friday’s Supreme Court ruling. But, come November, when voters elect a new governor and a slate of state lawmakers, that legislation could come under scrutiny.

Richard does not have a personal experience with abortion, but in 1979 she worked in an abortion clinic in New Orleans. She was amazed by how accessible the procedure was in the Louisiana city during the late ’70s, if someone needed one. 

She joined GRR! when she retired and found herself with extra time to dedicate to a cause she cares about deeply. 

“It really solidified my belief that women have, and had, a right to make the choice about what they do with their bodies when they find out they are pregnant,” Richard said.  


Kushner and Richard pointed out that the overturning of the landmark decision will not stop abortions, but rather stop safe access to abortions. 

Maine has several abortion clinics, or places that can help women set up an appointment for a clinic. According to the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention in 2019, the most recent data the state has, 2,021 abortions were performed in Maine.

Before abortions were legal, many women died and became sick of sepsis from infections from unsafe abortions and women were mistreated,” Kushner, 75, a former sexuality teacher and psychotherapist, said. “It was not unusual for hospitals to have (gynaecology) wards filled with women suffering from hemorrhages. That’s going to happen again.” 

Kushner had her abortion in 1966 when she was 19 years old. Self-described as privileged and from the working class, her family helped her along with the process.

Her family was impacted by her decision due to the secrecy and risk that came with it — they did not know who the provider was and got his name from a woman whose name she didn’t know. 

“I sort of had to take care of them in a way. I felt so bad they had to get involved,” Kushner said. “I was 19 — I wasn’t a baby, but I didn’t know anything about sexuality or birth control, but there wasn’t much to tell in those days.” 


But Kushner said she would not be where she is today if she did not make the choice for herself.  

She was able to go to college, marry a man and move to Maine, then later find her current partner with whom she has two children. She had her first child at 32. 

“At 19, that would not have been a healthy thing,” she said. “When you make a decision like that, it’s charting the course of your future. To take that way is very oppressive.” 

According to George Hill, the chief executive officer at Maine Family Planning, an abortion clinic with 18 locations in all corners of the state, he and his employees have “warned about this possibility for a long time.” 

Hill said a ban on abortion goes “hand-in-hand” with other progress made for reproductive rights and contraceptive rights for not only women, but for those who identify under the realm of the LGBTQ umbrella. 

Maine Family Planning does not just run abortion clinics. It also offers resources for people who need gender-affirming health care, primary care and access to birth control contraceptives. 


“The ban on abortion goes with other efforts from around the country — ‘Don’t Say Gay’ (bills), imposing religious values in sex education — you know, they are hand in hand, the services,” he said. “I have to say, you are being naive if you think providing the service is enough, and we have to defend it, especially now.”  

From his experience working at the clinics, he said most people who come in say the procedure and Maine Family Planning services “saved” their lives.  

Hill said the Augusta-area clinics have not seen an uptick in the number of people, but staff was “furious” over the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion back in May. There has been some confusion in the community where staff members had to explain that abortion, at this time, is still protected in Maine. 

On the Maine Family Planning website Thursday, an orange banner at the top read, “Abortion is still protected by Roe v. Wade and is protected by state law in Maine. You can receive abortion care from MFP.” 

By Friday, that message was pared down to highlight the only remaining protection: Maine law.

Moving forward, Richard and Kushner advised to “fight like your life depends on it” and to be hyper-aware of resources available. Organizations like Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights and Maine Family Planning can help people with educational knowledge and help available. 

“There are groups of people that will help people get it, help pay to get it,” Richard said. “And we will make sure people get those abortions until they tell us they can’t.”

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