AUGUSTA — Maine senators voted 18-15 Monday against a bill that would create new crimes in state law, such as murder and assault, against “unborn children.”

In an initial vote, six Republicans joined 11 Democrats and independent Sen. Richard Woodbury of Yarmouth in rejecting the measure. One Democrat, Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, voted to support it.

The bill will be scheduled for a vote in the House in the coming days. A House vote against the bill would kill it.

The bill, L.D. 1463, sponsored by Assistant Senate Majority Leader Debra Plowman, R-Hampden, would not apply to abortions done with the consent of the mother or to doctors in “usual and customary” standards of medical practice.

“This law is law in the United States of America and in 36 other states,” Plowman said. “It protects unborn children from bodily injury or death by providing criminal penalties for acts committed against the unborn child.”

Supporters say the proposal would create stiffer penalties for particularly heinous crimes; opponents say it’s an anti-abortion measure that has been abused by prosecutors in other states.

Plowman said she met with Maine Attorney General William Schneider after he reviewed her proposal. He said he would not be able to charge a mother with a crime under the legislation, according to Plowman.

“It does not limit access to abortion,” she said.

But Sen. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth, said the bill “drives a wedge” between a woman and her fetus.

“We have a law, and the law is sufficient,” she said during Monday’s debate in the Senate.

During the public hearing on the bill, no one testified that the state’s current law, which allows for longer sentences for violent crimes against pregnant women, is insufficient, said Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick.

“(Current law) works without creating separate legal rights for a fetus that could be used to promote religious beliefs about abortion,” he said. “And it works without dragging lawmakers or law enforcement into the quagmire of debating when life really begins.”

 

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: [email protected]