Sen. Vitelli receives the 2024 Public Health Policy Champion Award

Posted: June 24, 2024 | Senator Vitelli

HALLOWELL – On Thursday, June 6, Sen. Eloise Vitell, D-Arrowsic, received the 2024 Public Health Policy Champion Award from the Maine Public Health Association (MPHA). The award recognizes a policymaker who has made a significant contribution to public health in Maine. The Hon. Jay McCreight, D-Harpswell, nominated Sen. Vitelli for sponsoring LD 780, the Reproductive Freedom Amendment to Maine’s constitution. The Hon. McCreight received the inaugural award in 2018 for LD 945, a bill that sought to fund tobacco use prevention and cessation, in the 128th Maine State Legislature.

“I am honored to receive the 2024 Public Health Policy Champion Award from MPHA, and I am also humbled that my good friend and former colleague Jay nominated me,” said Sen. Vitelli. “As someone who grew up in the world before Roe v. Wade, I vividly remember the fear and the pain that women felt—the stigma they faced. With the reversal of Roe, some of these feelings and some of the stigma have returned. But so have determination and hope. Going forward, it is clear that we cannot take our access to health care for granted. I am confident that we will continue to promote access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion, for all Mainers.”

In the 131st Maine State Legislature, all 13 Maine Senate Republicans voted against LD 780, for both the initial and enactment votes. As a proposed constitutional amendment, LD 780 required 24 votes—at least 2 Senate Republicans. As amended, a two-thirds vote would have sent the proposal to Maine voters in a referendum, where Mainers would have made the final decision on adding the Reproductive Freedom Amendment to Maine’s constitution.

After the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade in 2022, states have taken steps to restrict or protect access to abortion. Many Republican-controlled states implemented new abortion restrictions, including 14 states that ban it at every stage of pregnancy. Later that year, California, Michigan, and Vermont enshrined reproductive rights in their state constitutions. In 2023, Ohio voters approved a constitutional amendment for reproductive freedom. In November, voters will decide on enshrining access to abortion in Colorado, Florida, Maryland, and South Dakota. Currently, voters are trying to get abortion access on the ballot in Arizona, Nevada, and New York.

“I nominated Eloise for her consistent support of reproductive health care, reproductive justice, and bodily autonomy and for her work to enshrine those rights in a constitutional amendment here in Maine,” said the Hon. McCreight. “Eloise courageously took the first step in bringing this forward. A policy maker who can be counted on to do the challenging work needed to translate ideas into reality is someone I call a champion.”

Additional past award winners include then-Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, (2019); Town Manager Nathan Poore, Falmouth, (2020); then-Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, (2021); Anna Korsen, Full Plates Full Potential, (2022); and City Manager Scott Morelli, South Portland, (2023).

Sen. Vitelli is the State Senator for Senate District 24, which includes all of Sagadahoc County and Dresden (Lincoln County). She is the Senate Majority Leader, and she is a member of the Maine State Legislature’s Joint Select Committee on Housing. She is serving her fourth and final term in the Maine State Senate.

MPHA is the state’s oldest, largest, and most diverse association for public health professionals. It represents more than 700 individual members and 60 organizations. MPHA advocates, acts, and advises on critical public health challenges, aiming to improve the policies, systems, and environments that underlie health inequities. Its mission is to improve and sustain the health and well-being of all people in Maine through health promotion, disease prevention, and the advancement of health equity. In 2024, MPHA celebrates its 40th anniversary.

Sen. Eloise Vitelli (left) and the Hon. Jay McCreight (right) at the Maine Public Health Association’s 2024 Awards Ceremony at Maple Hill Farm Inn and Conference Center in Hallowell