Advocates gathered in the Hall of Flags at the State House in January to support a proposal to add the right to abortion to the Maine Constitution. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

AUGUSTA — A proposed constitutional right to abortion failed Monday to get the two-thirds support of Maine senators needed to send it to voters for approval in a referendum.

In a party-line vote, the Senate voted 20-13 in support of L.D. 780, short of the 24 votes needed to advance a constitutional amendment. Democrats voted in support of the measure while Republicans were opposed, and two Democrats, Sen. Henry Ingwersen, D-Arundel, and Sen. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth, were absent.

The measure faces additional votes in both chambers of the Legislature, and advocates say they are still hopeful they can win more support. But unless lawmakers change their minds, the measure will not have enough support to go before voters in a statewide referendum, the final step needed to amend the state constitution.

The bill comes on the heels of a law passed last session that expanded abortion access in Maine later in pregnancy and as states around the country are contemplating changes to abortion laws in the wake of the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned the federal right to an abortion. Voters in California, Michigan, Vermont and Ohio have enshrined abortion rights in their state constitutions since the ruling.

The Maine proposal would create a constitutional amendment “to protect reproductive autonomy,” which would include access to abortion as well as birth control and fertility care.

“The ability to determine our reproductive health is a fundamental human right, and it deserves the same level of protection as other constitutionally protected rights,” said Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, the bill’s sponsor.


The proposal drew crowds of supporters and opponents earlier this session and on Monday brought out passionate testimony from several senators, including Sen. Stacy Brenner, D-Scarborough, who told the story of her own abortion as she urged fellow lawmakers to support the bill.

“I hate to imagine what my life would be now if I had not had the right to choose,” Brenner said. “Despite how much I believe in these rights, I also believe it is important the people of Maine weigh in at the ballot box.”

Republicans opposing the bill argued that it disregards the rights of the unborn and that the language used raises unanswered questions.

“There are real concerns about what (reproductive autonomy) could be argued to mean and what unintended issues may arise when this comes to be argued in courts,” said Senate Minority Leader Lisa Keim, R-Dixfield.

Sen. Stacey Guerin, R-Glenburn, said the bill disregards the rights of unborn children. “They deserve basic human rights,” Guerin said. “We must recognize abortion is not merely a medical procedure, it carries profound moral and ethical implications.”



Vitelli said the meaning of the bill is clear.

“Autonomy refers to the ability of an individual to decide what happens to their own body, including what medical treatment to pursue,” she said. “Reproductive autonomy ensures that the person who produces the sperm or the egg and the individual who hosts the embryo in her womb is able to decide when and if, and how, to engage in reproduction.”

Democrats highlighted the need for the bill in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision and said that despite the legislation approved last session, a constitutional amendment is needed to ensure protections in the event of future changes in state law.

A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England issued a statement that praised the senators who voted in support of the bill Monday and said that it is troubling that others would oppose access to essential medical care as well as prevent Mainers from weighing in at the ballot.

“It is crystal clear that extremists in our own state and across the country will do everything they can to take away our rights and freedoms,” said Lisa Margulies, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

“Whether it’s the right to contraception, assisted reproductive technology like in vitro fertilization, full spectrum pregnancy care, or abortion, Mainers should not have to worry about those rights being revoked election to election.”

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