Gov. Janet Mills speaks during a news conference about new legislation to expand abortion rights in Maine on Tuesday. Maine lawmakers who have worked in support of the legislation stand behind her. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

AUGUSTA — Gov. Janet Mills, abortion rights activists and legislative leaders unveiled a series of legislative measures on Tuesday to expand abortion access in Maine, including a bill that would make abortion legally accessible at any time during pregnancy with the approval of a qualified medical professional.

Maine law currently allows abortion up until the fetus is viable, which is about 22 to 24 weeks. After that, abortions are prohibited unless the life or health of the mother is at risk. This bill would allow later abortions if approved by a licensed medical professional specializing in reproductive health care. Only Alaska, Colorado, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont and the District of Columbia currently allow for abortions without gestational limits.

Dana Peirce, seen at the State House Tuesday, traveled to Colorado for an abortion after she and her husband learned that their second child had a rare genetic mutation that led to broken bones in the womb and a rib cage too small to let him breathe. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The legislation is inspired by the story of Dana Peirce of Yarmouth, who in 2019 had to spend $40,000 and travel to Colorado to get an abortion after an ultrasound at 32 weeks found a rare and painful genetic mutation in the fetus that would lead to death in the womb or shortly after birth. Pierce wanted an abortion to end the suffering of the child she’d already named Cameron, but at eight months pregnant, she was already beyond Maine’s legally allowable abortion window.

“Maine’s abortion laws are strong, but Dana’s painful experience shows us that there is more we can do to protect and support Maine people seeking abortion care,” Mills said during a statehouse news conference. “No Maine person should have to leave our state, the comfort of their family or friends, and have to potentially spend thousands of dollars just to access the care they need. This bill removes barriers to care and makes clear that, in Maine, the decision to have an abortion is for a woman and her medical provider to make.”

Peirce wrote about her experience in the Press Herald in November.

“As strong as Maine’s abortion law is, it still leaves people like me without options. We had to travel away from our home, our daughter and our support systems to end my pregnancy,” she wrote.


This bill is one of four highlighted by Mills, legislative leaders and advocates during a news conference attended by dozens of lawmakers. Other proposed abortion-related legislation included a bill to prevent municipalities from preempting state abortion laws, a bill to eliminate health insurance co-payments for abortion care, and a bill to strengthen protections for healthcare providers offering abortion care to people traveling to Maine from states where abortion is no longer legal.


The preemption bill, An Act to Protect the Reproductive Freedom of Maine People, sponsored by Rep. Laura Supica, D-Bangor, takes a page out of the anti-abortion playbook, using a strategy in favor among Republican governors to prevent liberal cities in conservative states from circumventing state abortion bans. Supica’s bill is intended to ensure that every Mainer has the same rights, regardless of what town they live in.

An Act to Remove Barriers to Comprehensive Pregnancy Care in Private Insurance, sponsored by Rep. Matt Moonen, D-Portland, would require insurance companies to cover abortions without cost sharing. Current Maine law requires private insurance to cover abortion care as a part of comprehensive pregnancy care, but many insurance plans require patients to pay out-of-pocket for abortion until they meet deductibles, causing delays in care.

Nicole Clegg, the chief strategy and impact officer for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said abortion deductibles typically run $500 to $1,000.

“For too many Mainers, unexpected medical costs mean choosing between paying for care or covering the rent and putting food on the table,” Moonen said.


The bill to protect Maine abortion providers, sponsored by Rep. Amy Kuhn, D-Falmouth, codifies language in Mills’ 2022 executive order shielding out-of-state abortion seekers coming to Maine.

The midday event drew a few opponents to watch the spectacle unfold. Christian Civic League of Maine’s policy director, Mike McClellan, listened to get an idea of what he might be up against in the upcoming legislative session, knowing that Democrats probably have enough votes to push most abortion rights bills through both the House and Senate. But he took heart knowing that they lack the 101 votes needed to pass any constitutional amendments to protect abortion access in Maine.

“I heard the words health care, health and safety mentioned a lot, but this is abortion, that’s the opposite of safety, the opposite of health,” McClellan said. “It’s ironic. Some of the truths that I hear them say, well, they aren’t my truths, not my reality. They aren’t truths for most people in Maine.”


House Republicans fired off a statement opposing the bills, calling them extreme and saying they go against what the majority of  Mainers are willing to tolerate.

“This runs counter to wide support for current Maine law that restricts abortions after fetal viability,” House Republicans said. “Despite statements suggesting Republicans would seek to change Maine’s abortion law, it is now Governor Mills who is looking to make Maine’s (law) the most extreme in the country. During the October 4, 2022, gubernatorial debate, Governor Mills was asked: ‘Would you support removing the current viability restriction in Maine’s law?’ Governor Mills responded: ‘No, I support the current Maine law.’ ”


Senate Minority Leader Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, said Republicans want to ensure children in state custody remain safe, while Democrats are talking about “killing more fetuses.”

Gov. Janet Mills speaks during a news conference about new legislation to protect abortion rights in Maine on Tuesday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“Apparently, that’s their priority,” Stewart said after a Republican-led child welfare news conference. “Ours is focused on child welfare and making sure that the children that we’re responsible for are going to be able to grow up.”

Abortion emerged as one of the top issues of the last campaign cycle for Democrats after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last spring, ending a woman’s right to an abortion under the U.S. Constitution. The case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization threw the legality of abortion back to the states and led to a wave of abortion bans and restrictions in a dozen conservative states.

Maine is one of just 17 states with a law that explicitly protects a woman’s right to abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank that studies abortion issues across the country. Twelve states have adopted abortion bans, with exceptions on a state-by-state basis in cases where a mother’s life is at risk or in cases of rape or incest.

Enacted in 1993 under Republican Gov. John McKernan, Maine’s law allows abortions up until fetal viability, which generally occurs between 22 and 24 weeks. After that, an abortion may only be performed to preserve the life or health of the mother. But Mills and her fellow Democrats have argued that laws can change, depending on who controls the state government, so abortion rights groups have sought additional state-level protections.



Mills has repeatedly said that she would support a constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights if an analysis by the Office of the Maine Attorney General determined it was necessary. On Tuesday, she said that she is still awaiting a review from Attorney General Aaron Frey about whether the need for a constitutional amendment exists.

Nicole Clegg of Planned Parenthood Northern New England said at the news conference that late-in-pregnancy abortions in Maine are very rare. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The language in the highlighted legislation is still under development, but according to Clegg, with Planned Parenthood, Mills’ proposed legislation would allow a licensed doctor to approve and conduct a patient’s abortion later in pregnancy in cases of rape or incest, but statistics suggest that it most likely would be a fetal anomaly like the one Dana Peirce experienced that would lead to an abortion after 24 weeks.

Clegg estimated that only about a dozen Maine residents a year need late-in-pregnancy abortions, almost always due to the recent discovery of medical fetal anomalies. Seventy percent of the 2,000 abortions performed in Maine each year occur in the first nine weeks of pregnancy, according to Planned Parenthood of New England statistics. Nine out of 10 of all Maine abortions take place before the 12th week of pregnancy.

Abortions that take place after the first trimester happen because people get new information they didn’t have before, such as learning about a fetal or maternal health issue or the loss of a job or spouse, and because of social, economic and logistical barriers to abortion care, including the obstacles facing people who live in states where abortion is illegal who must find the money, access and time off from work to obtain care in a state where abortions are legal, according to a 2019 study out of the University of California San Francisco.

The bill the governor has proposed is called An Act to Improve Maine’s Reproductive Privacy Act because it would build on the original legislation, which was signed into law in 1993.

Staff Writer Randy Billings contributed to this report.


Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story