Maine voters will soon be asked to strike down a new state law that allows only medical exemptions for required vaccinations.

Anti-vaccine activists say they turned in more than enough signatures to call for a people’s veto election, and pending a 30-day review by the Secretary of State’s Office, it will be on the ballot at the March 3 presidential primary.

There will be time to debate the issue before the election. Before the campaign heats up, however, we should take a moment to focus on two issues that didn’t make the ballot – a law allowing state funding for abortion services and and one that permits medically assisted dying.

Groups with organizational muscle and enough money to pay signature gatherers were out in the field with petitions on those issues as well, but failed to collect enough support to qualify for a people’s veto. As a result, these two bills have been allowed to go into effect without more debate.

The first new law ends discrimination against low-income women who need an abortion. Abortion becomes a covered service under the MaineCare program, and requires that private insurance policies that cover maternity care also cover abortion services.

The bill was opposed by religious groups who are against abortion in all circumstances. Had they won, however, they would not have limited everyone’s access to the procedure – only that of the people who could not afford to pay.

Statistics presented to the Legislature by Planned Parenthood showed that low-income women are five times more likely to have an unwanted pregnancy and six times more likely to have an unplanned child than women of greater means. One in four Medicaid-qualified women who tries to get an abortion ends up carrying the pregnancy to term because of the cost.

That shuts the clinic door on the least powerful. Regardless of your position on abortion, no one should support such a discriminatory policy. Now, what to do about an unplanned pregnancy will become a medical issue between a woman and her doctor, not a something to be fought over in a 40-year culture war.

And there will be no vote to repeal the medically assisted dying law that passed the Legislature and was signed by Gov. Mills.

As a result, people who are dying will be able to request medicine that would end their suffering and bring on the inevitable. If two doctors agree that a patient meets the requirements (six months or less to live, mentally competent and physically able to administer the medication themselves), that person can choose when the end will come.

If people’s veto backers had succeeded in gaining enough support to put this measure on the ballot, we would have been subject to a high-priced political campaign with hyperbolic claims about financially motivated euthanasia, a fear that has no basis in the experience of the eight states that already have laws like this on the books, including Oregon, which has allowed doctors to provide assistance in dying for more than 20 years.

Instead of hashing it out in 30-second TV ads, it becomes a matter for doctors and their patients, under close scrutiny of the state, to have these most personal conversations that will be slightly different in every individual case.

These are both very difficult issues that were decided by a closely divided Legislature. But with the failure of the people’s veto efforts, they are now state law, providing relief from uncertainty to the relatively small number of Mainers whose lives will be deeply affected.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.