Sen. Vitelli’s Reproductive Rights Amendment clears initial vote in Senate

Posted: April 01, 2024 | Senator Carney, Senator Vitelli

AUGUSTA — On Monday, the Maine Senate gave initial support to LD 780, “RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine to Protect Personal Reproductive Autonomy,” sponsored by Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic. The Reproductive Rights Amendment received a vote of 20-13, along partisan lines.

Sen. Eloise Vitelli

“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. The ability to control one’s reproductive health is vital to being an equal member of our society and economy — this includes the decision of when, whether and how to start a family,” said Sen. Vitelli. “For 50 years – most of my lifetime – many believed that we had a guaranteed right to reproductive liberty. Maine statutes in place today continue to protect access to reproductive health care. However, the 2022 Supreme Court decision that reversed Roe V. Wade served as a stark reminder that laws can change. LD 780, if approved by the voters, would enshrine the right to access reproductive health care – including access to abortion, birth control and fertility care — in our constitution.”

In the year after Roe V. Wade was overturned, 14 states moved to enforce total bans on abortion, and another seven voted to restrict access to abortion. “As a result, almost 18 million women of reproductive age, in addition to transgender and nonbinary people who may need an abortion, no longer have access to abortion care in their state of residence,” reports the Guttmacher Institute. According to a more recent study from the Institute, 18 states — including Maine — plus D.C. have policies protecting access to abortion care. 

LD 780 would add clarifying language to Maine’s Constitution that would explicitly enshrine an individual’s right to reproductive freedom. As a proposed constitutional amendment, a vote to pass the bill would send the matter to voters for them to decide in a statewide ballot issue.

As approved by Committee, the proposed amendment would read:

“Every person has a right to reproductive autonomy. Neither the State nor any political subdivision of the State may deny or infringe on a person’s right to reproductive autonomy unless the denial or infringement is justified by a compelling state interest and is accomplished using the least restrictive means necessary. Nothing in this section narrows or limits a person’s right to privacy or equal protection. 

“For purposes of this section, the State’s or political subdivision’s interest in denying or infringing a person’s right to reproductive autonomy is ‘compelling’ only if it is for the limited purpose of protecting the health of the individual seeking care, is consistent with accepted clinical standards of practice and evidence-based medicine and does not infringe on that person’s autonomous decision-making.”

Sen. Anne Carney

“In Maine, our laws recognize that health care decisions are complex, deeply personal and best made by patients and their trusted health care professionals. In the wake of the Supreme Court decision, lawmakers have stepped up to not only protect the fundamental right to an abortion but also support the rights of Maine people to make their own decisions when it comes to starting or growing their families,” said Sen. Anne Carney, D-Cape Elizabeth. “As solid as these protections are, Maine laws are subject to change from election to election. The Reproductive Rights Amendment is about ensuring access to critical care remains safe, legal and accessible — and not subject to political whims. Today’s vote is about giving Maine people the opportunity to decide for themselves. As elected officials, I believe we owe them that. ”

LD 780 faces further votes in the House and Senate.