PORTLAND — Abortion rights supporters sought to elevate the issue in the governor’s race by throwing their support behind six-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud on Monday.

The Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund PAC said the state “cannot afford another four years” of Gov. Paul LePage, pointing to his rejection of a bill that would have expanded Medicaid coverage for birth control and cancer screenings, among other things.

“We cannot afford to let him continue to roll back the clock on women’s health,” said Nicole Clegg, chairwoman of the group.

The Republican governor opposes abortion on a personal level but has not introduced legislation limiting it and has rarely discussed the issue since taking office in 2011.

Nonetheless, Clegg said his views on the issue are “extreme, dangerous and out of touch with an overwhelming majority of Mainers.” She said Maine needs someone at the governor’s desk that will ensure such measures won’t become law in the future.

The endorsement is the latest example of the attempt by Maine’s liberal coalition to line up early behind Michaud in the three-person race for governor and to present him as the preferred option to LePage, said Mark Brewer, political science professor at the University of Maine.

Both LePage and independent Eliot Cutler’s campaigns criticized Michaud’s mixed record on the issue. Michaud supported several bills backed by the anti-abortion organization National Right to Life during his early years in Congress but has received strong ratings from abortion rights groups over the last several years.

Brent Littlefield, chief political adviser for LePage, said in an email that it’s clear Michaud “will do whatever it takes to get as much outside liberal money as possible.”

Cutler’s campaign contends that the independent is the only candidate who has consistently supported abortion rights. It said Monday that it is confident Maine voters will compare the records and see that Culter’s position reflects his “unwavering core values.”

Michaud dismissed the criticism of his record, and the Planned Parenthood group applauded his evolution into a strong supporter of abortion rights. He pledged to stand strong against attacks on abortion rights if elected in November.

“I believe that politicians should not come between women and her doctor,” Michaud said. “My opponents have tried to use the issue to divide us, distorting my record and undermining the great work that organizations, like Planned Parenthood, do each and every day.”

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