Gov. Janet Mills speaks Monday at a rally in Monument Square in Portland marking the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Holding the microphone for the governor is Christina Ouellette, who organized the rally. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Abortion rights advocates in Maine marked the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned the landmark case that enshrined abortion rights by gathering in Portland’s Monument Square on Monday to demand that lawmakers protect abortion access and to encourage supporters to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

Gov. Janet Mills spoke at the event that drew roughly 100 people, as did Maine House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, and representatives from Planned Parenthood, the Maine Women’s Lobby and other organizations.

“In Maine, we believe in the right to bodily autonomy, the right to health care, the rights of women,” Mills said.

While the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade led to abortion restrictions in many states, Maine was one of the few states to pass laws protecting or expanding abortion rights.

Last year, Mills signed a law  that expanded access to abortion later in pregnancy and shielded medical providers from facing penalties for performing abortions. Previously, restrictions in state law forced some Maine residents to leave the state to get abortions after learning of fetal complications later in pregnancy.

Since the Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision, 14 states have made abortion illegal and more than a dozen have limited access, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.


“We’re in a moment of crisis, and for anybody to take away our rights at this point after having a law on the books for 50 years, I just feel we really need to stand up and support women’s rights and the right to choose,” said Deb Picard, of Ogunquit, who attended the rally and held a sign that read, ” ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is not an instruction manual.”

Women hold signs as Speaker of the House Rachel Talbot Ross addresses the rally in Portland on Monday marking the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Mills spoke about the need to guarantee the right to abortion by amending the Maine Constitution, an effort that failed in the Maine Senate in April. The governor’s speech drew shouts from a few counterprotesters in the square.

Antiabortion advocates have long criticized state Democrats’ efforts to expand abortion access. Christian Civic League of Maine Executive Director Carroll Conley said that those rallying in Monument Square had the “right and the privilege to promote their ideas,” but said that his group will continue pushing for abortion limits.

“When (the Dobbs ruling) took place two years ago, we released a statement that just said, while we’re thankful for the opportunity to continue to make the case for the sanctity of human life, that this is really just the beginning of another long process, because now this goes back to the states. What happens in Maine is not going to happen in Alabama,” Conley said.

Some speakers at the rally shared personal stories about how access to abortions and other reproductive care has affected their lives. Cassandra Sparrold Shute spoke about suffering from multiple miscarriages and difficult pregnancies, an experience that she said represents “choices” – those made during pregnancy and those the Supreme Court made in overturning abortion rights.

“It became a very visceral reaction for me, because as someone who has struggled to maintain pregnancies, particularly late in carrying, watching all of the women in this country fighting for medical care for emergencies really broke my heart,” Sparrold Shute said. “And so that’s why I’m here, is to support bodily autonomy.”

Kimberly Simmons, who teaches women and gender studies at University of Southern Maine, helped recruit organizations to participate in the rally on Monday.

“It’s important that people have opportunities to get more involved and take action,” Simmons said.

Simmons hopes the rally lifts up spirits after two years of losses for those advocating for broader abortion access nationwide.

“The backlash against feminism has demoralized people,” Simmons said. “We actually have a lot to celebrate. I’m excited to have a little bit of that invigoration.”

Cassandra Sparrold Shute speaks Monday during a rally for abortion rights in Monument Square. Over 100 people turned out for the rally, which marked the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer


For many in attendance, the rally came with hope that voters will support abortion rights at the polls in November.

Abortion has proven to be a powerful motivator at the ballot box, even at the local level. Earlier this month, incumbent Rep. Bruce White, D-Waterville, lost his primary race after his opponent, Cassie Julia, drew attention to his record of voting against abortion rights.

Emilia Toth, 21, a University of Southern Maine student who attended the rally, works with Maine Students Vote to help increase student voter registration.

Toth said she went to the rally to spread awareness about the lack of abortion access nationwide.

“Election day is coming up. I really wanted to come out and support and encourage people to vote,” Toth said.

Abortion advocates aren’t the only ones saying they want abortion to be a motivating issue for voters this fall.

Conley, the Christian Civic League director, said his group has been organizing “in a way that I’ve never seen in my 15 years” to advocate for abortion limits. But he conceded that abortion rights advocates have been mobilized by the ruling.

“There’s no question that the Dobbs decision energized the pro-choice, not just in Maine, but everywhere,” Conley said. “There’s no question that short-term, there have been losses in states like Maine and the Northeast and so on.”

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