Maine’s candidates for Congress are sticking with their stated positions on abortion while a national debate rages on the issue, triggered by statements by a Republican congressman and a plank in the party’s national platform.
Five of Maine’s seven major congressional candidates, including two of the three Republicans, are pro-choice on abortion.
The U.S. Senate seat to be vacated by pro-choice Republican Olympia Snowe will almost surely stay pro-choice. The major candidates, Republican Charlie Summers, independent Angus King and Democrat Cynthia Dill, are all firmly pro-choice.
In southern Maine’s 1st Congressional District, Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree is pro-choice while her Republican challenger, Jon Courtney, opposes abortion.
“I’ve always been clear: I oppose abortion except in the cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother. I’ll leave it at that,” Courtney said. “I’m worried about jobs and the economy.”
In the 2nd Congressional District, Democrat Mike Michaud, the five-term incumbent, is more conservative than Republican Kevin Raye on the issue.
Michaud’s chief of staff, Peter Chandler, said he’s neither pro-life nor pro-choice.
Michaud has been called pro-life by many, but NARAL Pro-Choice America has called him “mixed-choice,” citing votes in each direction.
In a prepared statement, Chandler said Michaud “has carefully weighed issues related to abortion and family planning.”
Raye’s campaign did not return several messages seeking comment Wednesday.
Raye told the Portland Press Herald earlier this year that, “Early in pregnancy, government has no appropriate role in the decision (about abortion). With respect to later-term pregnancy, I would vote to ban all post-viability abortions except those necessary to save the life of the woman and prevent severe physical harm to her health.”
Summers and Raye are at odds with a plank in their party’s proposed national platform: opposition to abortion with no exceptions, including rape and incest, with a constitutional amendment to cinch it.
Debate on the platform has flared because U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Missouri, said in a televised interview Sunday that women’s bodies can “shut that whole thing down” during rape, making pregnancy unlikely.
Akin was condemned by many in his party, including Raye, Summers and Maine’s U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe. All said Akin should resign from Congress or quit his race for U.S. Senate.
James Melcher, a professor of political science at the University of Maine at Farmington, said that without the Akin controversy, the proposed Republican platform wouldn’t get much attention.
He said platforms generally are formulated by teams that have more extreme views than the average person in a party, and end up having little effect on races.
“Platforms don’t bind anybody to anything,” he said. “A platform is a general philosophy.”
The national GOP platform had similar abortion language in 2000, 2004 and 2008, according to CNN.
Maine Democrats in federal races came out swinging against the Republican Party’s abortion plank.
“This plank of the GOP platform is no different than what Akin said: End abortions for everyone in any situation,” said Pingree in a prepared statement. “For a party that claims to advocate for smaller government, the GOP’s number one concern seems to be taking very personal decisions out of the hands of women across the country.”
Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, majority share owner of The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.
Dill, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, called the plank’s inclusion “dangerous and terrifying.”
“It actually places the woman at the absolute lowest level of concern,” she said. “A woman’s body is of no concern to the Republicans.”
Independent Angus King had no comment on the Republican or Democratic platforms and conventions, said campaign spokeswoman Crystal Canney.
She restated what she called King’s longtime stance: abortion should be “safe, available, and rare,” and there should be no government interference in a woman’s health decisions.
Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 621-5632 or at: