I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about the new Texas law, which recently took effect and severely limits a woman’s right to reproductive health care. This new law is extreme and cruel: It prohibits abortions after the first six weeks of a pregnancy — a time when most women don’t even know they are pregnant yet — and includes no exceptions for rape or incest. Though it is not foreign to us to see challenges to our constitutional rights as women and as humans, this is the most severe restriction we have seen take effect since Roe v. Wade became the law of the land.

So many people in our community, the state and across the country are reeling after this horrifying development. It’s a huge step backward for a woman’s right to choose, and it allows others to decide what women can and can’t do with their own bodies. The law did not come out of thin air. Across this country, there is an organized effort to chip away at our constitutional rights. Though this law only affects women in Texas, it is a stark warning for women, and all those who care about an individual’s right to make the medical decisions that are best for themselves, across this country.

I have had my own experiences with abortion. I was just an average woman whose birth control failed — twice — and it was not the right time in my life to have a child. Today, I am able to run a thriving business, serve my community in the Legislature, and give back and contribute in so many ways. Had I not been able to make those choices for myself, I know I would not be where I am today.

In the 1990s, I was a nurse providing abortion care services in New Jersey. I met countless women who were in the same position I had found myself in. Their birth control had failed after having consensual sex. I would remind them that having a choice is legal, it’s their body and their right. My role was to be kind and reassuring, to try and destigmatize the choice and to abolish the shame. Most women had tears. Most women left feeling relieved.

Today, I find myself in a much different role than I was in during the ’90s. As a Maine State Senator, I may not be able to pass policies to protect the right to reproductive health care on the federal level, but I can work to ensure that Maine women never, ever have to face the terrible decisions I know so many in Texas are having to do now on a daily basis. Last session, my Democratic colleagues and I fought to protect this right. We soundly rejected multiple bills that threatened access to reproductive health care in Maine.

On October 2, hundreds of Mainers across the state rallied for abortion justice. Seeing so many come together for this cause, including many of my sisters in the Maine Senate, was powerful. We are making ourselves heard loud and clear: We will not go backward. I will always fight for a woman’s right in the State House, and I am thankful to know that there are so many others standing right there with me. We must — and will — stay vigilant. We will work to ensure that the representatives we are electing are working to protect our constitutional right, because we know that every state is one election away from the same reality as Texas.

As always, you can send me an email at [email protected] or call my office at 287-1515.

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