Gov. Janet Mills issued an executive order Tuesday that puts Maine firmly on the right side of the growing conflict between states over abortion rights.

For 49 years, the decision of when or if to have a baby was a fundamental, individual right, one belonging to people in every state. After Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the right has been erased and it’s up to each state to decide the limits of bodily autonomy.

We know where Maine stands. Since 1993, abortion before fetal viability has been protected under state law, and a number of laws passed since then have expanded access to reproductive health care, including abortion care.

But these legal protections may not be enough in the country that the Supreme Court has created. In roughly half of the states, abortion will be a crime and some of those states are writing laws that would punish women – and anyone who helps them – if they travel to a place like Maine, where abortion is legal. Even before the new laws come into effect, providers here say that they have treated women from states where abortion is restricted.

The prototype is a Texas law that bans abortions after six weeks of gestation – well before many people realize that they are pregnant. It’s enforced with a private right to sue in state courts, where any individual can seek damages from anyone who performs an abortion or assists someone seeking one. Copycat “vigilante” laws are under consideration in other states, along with other laws to prevent people from crossing state lines to receive care.

Mills’ order puts Maine’s position on record for the nation. As long as she is governor, Maine will not assist in any investigation of people who come here for an abortion. And Mills said she would decline to extradite anyone charged in another state with providing, assisting or receiving reproductive health services.


That’s where Maine stands, but only as long as Mills is governor. She is running for re-election this fall against former Gov. Paul LePage, who has recently been trying to hide from anti-abortion statements by him and the Maine Republican Party. LePage has tried to finesse the issue recently by saying that he “doesn’t have time for abortion,” because it doesn’t affect everyone. “Abortion affects few,” he said.

We can only guess if LePage would find the time to sign a ban on abortion, if he were to win the election. But Mills has left no doubt – any attempt to repeal Maine’s abortion law that reaches her desk would be vetoed.

In this time of national crisis we need leaders to make the time.

Our federal system can maintain national unity with minor variations in the law between states, but this is not like buying fireworks or playing slot machines. Calling abortion “murder” in some states and “health care” in others stretches the definition of “one nation.”

Ultimately, we need the federal government to establish minimal standards for privacy and liberty that cannot be violated by the states. But because of partisan division and a mindless devotion to rules of procedure, Congress is not going to fix this anytime soon.

Until that changes, we need states like Maine to preserve the rights of people who want to decide what’s best for their families. And we need leaders who will speak clearly about where they stand.

At this moment of national crisis, Maine is fortunate that Janet Mills is the governor, and she is making the time to protect our rights.

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