As much as Paul LePage and other Republicans want it otherwise, abortion is on the ballot this November. They should know – they put it there.

Then-Gov. Paul LePage speaks Jan. 14, 2012, at an anti-abortion rally in Augusta as part of the Hands Around the Capitol Rally and March, held each year to recognize the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. In a survey this year by the Christian Civic League of Maine, LePage answered “yes” when asked if access to abortion should be restricted. Joel Page/Associated Press, File

The Republican Party for decades put forward candidates who promised to fight against Roe v. Wade and the constitutional right to abortion. Again and again, it’s been one of the party’s main strategies for keeping their base of voters engaged.

Abortion certainly could be a motivating factor on the other side, as well. But it was nothing like what we’ve seen since June, when the Supreme Court overturned the Roe decision and wiped away rights for millions of women.

The reaction against the decision has been swift, and bad news for Republicans hoping for a sweep this November. It was right around then that Republican candidates decided it would be a good idea to not mention the issue at all.

LePage has been no different, downplaying his strident opposition to abortion rights and saying he wouldn’t have “time for abortion” with so many issues facing the winner of November’s election.

After the Supreme Court decision, however, voters simply don’t have the luxury of taking his word for it. The evidence to the contrary is just too strong, and the cost of being wrong – the loss of reproductive rights for hundreds of thousands of Maine women – is too high.


While in office, LePage was loudly anti-abortion. He attended and spoke at numerous anti-abortion rallies. In 2016, he said, “We should not have abortion.” In 2018, when asked about overturning Roe v. Wade, he said, “Let’s do it.” Just this year, in a survey from the anti-abortion Christian Civic League of Maine, he answered “yes” when asked if abortion access should be restricted.

Given those statements, and the support for abortion restrictions throughout the party, its voters and donors, it’s not a leap to believe abortion rights are in trouble if Republicans gain control of the State House.

LePage’s campaign argues that the last time that happened, in 2010-2011, when he was governor and Republicans controlled the Legislature, no anti-abortion bills passed.

That’s true, but it was also a different time. Roe was still the law of the land, and most Republicans saw no reason to put their leadership in jeopardy by backing abortion restrictions that not only were unpopular but also would have no legal effect.

They would, however, have an impact if passed in the next session, now that the Supreme Court has decided that abortion rights should be left up to the states.

It wasn’t that long ago that such a decision seemed impossible, as it would take such an unlikely confluence of events: Republican control of the presidency and both houses of Congress, along with a series of openings on the Supreme Court.


Even once Republicans were able to put three anti-abortion justices on the court, we were told by moderates in the party, including Maine Sen. Susan Collins, that reproductive rights were safe.

Then Roe was struck down, and Republicans across the country raced to enact abortion bans where they weren’t already in place.

Often this rush has been thoughtless, and it has resulted in laws so extreme that their outcomes have shocked even anti-abortion conservatives: bans on medications used to treat ailments unrelated to abortion, vigilantes deputized to harass fellow citizens, girls as young as 10 forced to go to term with their rapist’s baby.

Voters clearly are right to be concerned about what could happen in Maine if people who have been vehemently anti-abortion are elected to office.

LePage could have helped alleviate some anxiety at last week’s debate. But even though there was never a doubt he would get a question on abortion, the former governor had trouble giving a straight answer.

LePage is right that Maine has other problems that require the attention of the next governor.

But after the Supreme Court decision, the result of a decades-long conservative project to ban abortion, voters would be foolish to believe that reproductive rights aren’t in danger.

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