Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday joined a growing list of governors taking steps to shield women who cross state lines to seek legal abortions – and the medical professionals who provide them – from lawsuits or even criminal prosecution in their home states.

The first-term Democrat and former Maine attorney general signed an executive order that bans state agencies from cooperating with another state’s investigation into a person, organization or health care provider for receiving or performing abortions in Maine.

Mills said she will exercise her authority within the law to decline extradition attempts from other states pursuing criminal charges against abortion seekers or providers. Some states, including Idaho, Oklahoma and Missouri, have proposed bills to make it illegal for residents to get an out-of-state abortion.

The order, which Mills signed Tuesday afternoon, also directs state agencies to conduct a review of laws and regulations for any barrier to reproductive healthcare and to exercise discretionary authority under the law to remove or minimize those barriers.

“A woman’s right to choose is just that – a woman’s, not a politician’s,” Mills said in a statement. “This executive order makes clear that access to reproductive health care, and the health care providers who offer it, will be protected by my administration.”

The order comes less than two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its landmark 1973 ruling, Roe v. Wade, that allowed access to abortions across the country. The court ruling in late June returned this hot-button political issue back to the states to decide.


Some states had “trigger laws” in place designed to go into effect and block abortions as soon as Roe was overturned. The procedure is likely to be illegal in 26 states by the end of the year. Abortion remains safe and legal in Maine, which passed a 1993 law that explicitly ensured abortion access here.

Maine abortion providers – Planned Parenthood, Maine Family Planning and Mabel Wadsworth Center – are gearing up for an influx of out-of-state patients seeking abortions in the dwindling number of states where they are still legally available.

Nicole Clegg, the vice president of public affairs at Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund, applauded Mills for the order, which she called an important first step since the overturning of Roe to ensure safe, supported and respectful access to abortion in Maine.

“While Maine’s laws ensure that abortion is legal and accessible, there is still work to be done,” Clegg said in a prepared statement. “We expect Maine’s leaders to do all within their power to protect people’s privacy, safety and access to all aspects of pregnancy care including abortion.”

Clegg said she already has witnessed the harm that post-Roe abortion bans in other states are causing patients, forcing them to travel thousands of miles to get legal care. In the first week alone, Clegg said Planned Parenthood of Northern New England had treated patients from four states with active bans.

Maine isn’t alone in using gubernatorial executive orders to shield both abortion seekers and providers.


Rhode Island Gov. Daniel McKee, a Democrat, signed a similar order Tuesday. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, was one of the first governors in the nation to issue an order offering to shield both abortion providers and seekers from extradition and legal action by anti-abortion states.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont signed such legal protections into state law earlier this year.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, who has vowed to support codifying abortion access in the state constitution in a fall referendum, and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, have issued statements saying they would not help anti-abortion states in criminal or civil abortion-related investigations. Both are Republicans.

Mills has vowed to veto any effort to roll back access to abortion in Maine.

Her political opponent, former Gov. Paul LePage, opposes abortion but is trying to avoid the issue on the campaign trail. He has said he doesn’t “have time for abortion,” and calls it a non-issue that Mills is relying on to distract voters from Maine’s economic woes.

The Republican said he would not try to overturn or restrict the right to abortion in Maine, but refused to promise that he wouldn’t sign an anti-abortion bill if he becomes governor again. His political adviser did not return an email Tuesday night asking if LePage would overturn Mills’ order if elected.

The Christian Civic League, an ardent anti-abortion group and key LePage political ally, couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday night. A spokesman for the Maine Republican Party, which adopted a platform that enshrines “the sanctity of human life – from conception to natural death,” said he would need more time to consider Mills’ order.

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