FALMOUTH — While Roe v. Wade continues to be the law of the land 40 years after the historic Supreme Court decision, we cannot be complacent. In state after state reproductive freedom is under assault, either directly or through insidious attempts to chip away at these fundamental rights.
Some say this issue isn’t relevant in a governor’s race. But in a year when Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis had to stage an 11-hour filibuster to try to stop her governor’s assault on access to safe, legal abortions, it clearly is. Here in Maine, last June lawmakers voted on three bills to further restrict choice – laws that surely would have been signed into law by our current anti-choice governor.
I want to see Gov. LePage defeated as much as anyone, but I will not settle for someone who does not stand firmly for reproductive freedom. Eliot Cutler is staunchly pro-choice, but U.S. Rep Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, has voted against women’s reproductive rights all too often during his 33-year political career.
I served with Mike in the Maine Legislature. Back then, there was no doubt that he was a right-to-life advocate. And in his first congressional campaign in 2002, Mike said, “Voters wanted to know whether I was pro-life. I said, yes, I was, and they were really amazed that a Democrat, you know, can be pro-life.”
So when Mike decided to run for governor, I decided to review his more recent record. Not much has changed.
Some of his supporters suggest that we brush aside his long trail of anti-choice votes, including the one in favor of recognizing a fertilized egg as a human being, or the one to require the presence of a second physician during an abortion.
They say we should trust him to “do the right thing,” although in his first congressional campaign he promised something similar and then went on to cast many votes that restrict reproductive freedom, such as supporting a bill to require doctors to give an express warning to women that the “process of being killed in an abortion” before 20 weeks will cause the fetus pain.
Now Mike is saying that he has “evolved” on choice. In a recent interview with Steve Mistler of the Portland Press Herald, he said, “I have evolved on that issue, the big difference being since I’ve became a member of Congress, I’ve actually had the opportunity to sit down and talk to women who’ve made some of those very, very tough decisions, personal decisions, in their lives.”
I was surprised to hear that in 22 years as a legislator, he never met a teen who got pregnant by accident, or a woman who had been raped, or a mother who had to make the awful choice between terminating a non-viable pregnancy or risk never being able to have children again.
When I was in the Legislature, I met some of those girls and women and heard their stories. And when I ran for governor in 1986 I made a TV ad that told people how strongly I supported a woman’s right to choose. I didn’t equivocate. People knew where I stood.
I wish Rep. Michaud’s position had “evolved” prior to 2009 when he supported the Stupak-Pitts amendment to the Affordable Care Act banning abortion coverage for women purchasing private insurance through health exchanges – a vote that prompted NARAL Pro-Choice America to condemn the lawmakers who supported it “for abandoning women and capitulating to the most extreme fringe of the anti-choice movement.”
As recently as last year, Mike said in a Portland Press Herald “Meet the Candidates” survey, “I support the current ban on federal funding of abortion,” which translates into denying poor women coverage for abortion services. I always admired U.S. Sen. George Mitchell for his support for federal funding for abortion despite his strong Catholic faith.
As he seeks favor in vote-rich and progressive-leaning southern Maine, Mike Michaud says he won’t support weakening Maine’s Reproductive Privacy Act, which codified the protections of Roe v. Wade in Maine law. However, he fails to mention that he actually voted against that act as a legislator and that some of the most intrusive restrictions enacted by states like Texas may be permissible under the same law.
You can understand why I’m supporting Eliot Cutler for governor. He is not only the best person for the job, he is the only candidate who has always unequivocally supported reproductive freedom for women. Anyone who truly cares about these fundamental rights should join me in supporting him.
— Special to the Press Herald