Constitutional rights hang in the balance as the United States Supreme Court hears challenges to Texas’ new restrictive abortion law, which took effect on Sept. 1, and Mississippi’s abortion ban, which has been found unconstitutional by two lower courts.

Anne Carney

The controversial Texas law contains no exceptions to abortions after six weeks for rape, sexual abuse or incest. Even worse, the law allows any private person in the United States to bring a civil suit and collect a $10,000 fee against those who help someone obtain an abortion. Spouses, friends, sisters, nurses, hospitals and insurance companies would have to pay “statutory damages in an amount of not less than $10,000” plus costs and attorney’s fees to strangers who have no connection to the health of the pregnant person.

Mississippi’s law, on hold during the appeal process, would ban all abortions after 15 weeks. Both of these laws violate people’s constitutional rights and reproductive freedom. But on Dec. 1, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether all pre-viability bans on elective abortions like these violate the Constitution. Depending on how the court rules, it could mean the elimination of the right to reproductive freedom and abortion access.

Texas and Mississippi are not the only states restricting women’s access to abortion. Over 500 bills related to restricting abortion access were introduced to state legislatures across the country just this year. Last month, I joined almost 900 state legislators in urging the Supreme Court to uphold Roe v. Wade when the Court rules on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban.

These Supreme Court cases arose far from Maine, but constitutional rights and reproductive freedom face threats here as well. Six bills to restrict abortion access by creating financial and other barriers to receiving health care were introduced to the Maine Legislature in 2021. The bills included financial barriers, such as repeal of insurance coverage for abortion services to a MaineCare member. Other bills sought to impose medically unnecessary tests or disseminate false and harmful information about a dangerous and unproven medication marketed as an abortion reversal drug.

The proposals would have forced doctors and nurses to violate the standards of medical care. They would have endangered pregnant people and overburdened them with expenses.

The most extreme bill submitted this year would have eroded our rights by intruding on the grief that sadly is sometimes part of pregnancy. It proposed a state mandate that any woman who has a miscarriage or abortion provide individual burial or cremation services for fetal remains, and enforced the mandate as a Class D crime. For example, a family dealing with the grief of pregnancy loss would have to collect blood and tissue during a miscarriage, arrange a burial or cremation, and pay for those expenses in addition to medical bills that have accumulated.

No legitimate state policy justifies intruding on the privacy of Maine families in this way. I am relieved that Maine’s Legislature rejected this rigid state-mandated grieving process along with the other barriers attempting to restrict Mainers’ constitutional rights and reproductive freedom.

The fetal remains, bill was especially intrusive, but each anti-abortion measure before the Legislature sought to violate people’s bodies, right to privacy and reproductive freedom. As chairs of the Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary, Rep. Thom Harnett and I conducted respectful, extensive hearings on these bills. After all the testimony and debate, a majority of the Judiciary Committee and the Legislature stood firmly for the right to privacy and reproductive freedom. I am proud that we protected Mainers from the unconstitutional attacks happening elsewhere in our country. As your Maine State Senator, I am committed to upholding the constitutional right of Mainers to obtain an abortion and determined to reject bills that create barriers to abortion rights here in Maine.

Anne Carney represents Maine Senate District 29, which consists of Cape Elizabeth, South Portland and part of Scarborough.

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