Becky Lewis, left, and Candace Davis, both of Westbrook, hold signs while chanting at Monument Square in Portland on Sunday, the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

About 100 people gathered Sunday night in Portland’s Monument Square to show their support for reproductive rights and to mark the 50th anniversary of the court case that guaranteed federal protections for abortion.

The landmark Roe v. Wade decision was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2022.

Since the Court ruling, one in three women living in the U.S. have lost their right to an abortion in their home state, according to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. Planned Parenthood’s Maine Action Fund, organized Sunday’s “Lights Along Congress Street” rally.

Protesters line Congress Street at Monument Square in Portland on Sunday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Abortion rights supporters held candles, waved flashlights, clutched signs that read “Bans off our bodies” and chanted “we won’t go back,” while the drivers of passing vehicles honked horns t0 show their support. Supporters lined both sides of Congress Street during the peaceful gathering that took place on the block occupied by the Portland Public Library.

Though Maine remains an access state where abortion is still permitted, there are currently 16 states where abortions have been banned and another 10 where they are being considered, said Nicole Clegg, Chief Strategy and Impact Officer for PPNNE, in a telephone interview.

“It is turning into a state by state legislative fight,” Clegg said. “But the election made it clear that Mainers feel very strongly about this issue.”


Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat who supports a woman’s right to an abortion, defeated her Republican challenger, Paul LePage, in the November 2022 gubernatorial race.

Clegg said that with federal protections gone it is even more important to continue to shine the light on the turbulent national landscape.

“We want to show people that Maine is the shelter in the storm,” Clegg said.

In addition to the Congress Street rally, PPNNE also asked Mainers to light a candle in their windows to show that Maine remains a beacon of hope for those women, who have been prohibited from getting an abortion. Dubbed ‘Light up the Night for Reproductive Rights’ remained in effect all day Sunday.

Maine could further expand abortion access. State law currently allows abortion up until the fetus is viable, which is about 22 to 24 weeks. After that, abortions are prohibited unless the life or health of the mother is at risk.

But, earlier this week, Gov. Mills introduced a series of four legislative measures including one bill that would extend access to abortion beyond fetal viability with the approval of a health care professional. Only Alaska, Colorado, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont and the District of Columbia currently allow for abortions without gestational limits.


Ginger Raspiller of Portland lines Congress Street with fellow protesters outside Portland Public Library on Sunday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

That bill was inspired by the story of Dana Peirce of Yarmouth, who in 2019 had to spend $40,000 and travel to Colorado to get an abortion after an ultrasound at 32 weeks found her baby had a rare and painful genetic mutation that would lead to death in the womb or shortly after birth.

It remains unclear exactly what the bill will say, as the language is still under development, but Mills said on Friday that her proposal would maintain Maine’s current viability standard, allowing women to end their pregnancy for any reason through 24 weeks.

“The word necessary is an important term,” Mills told the Press Herald. “Necessary, not casual. Not frivolous. Necessary. We are not opening the floodgates or opening the door as wide as some might think. It’s not an extreme measure. It is, I believe, a rational proposal and a compassionate proposal.”

Other proposed abortion-related legislation includes a bill to prevent municipalities from preempting state abortion laws, a bill to eliminate health insurance co-payments for abortion care, and a bill to strengthen protections for health care providers offering abortion care to people traveling to Maine from states where abortion is no longer legal.

Heather Hansen of Portland said she came to Sunday night’s rally to show her support for abortion rights and to make a point.

“The fight will never be over,” said Hansen, a nurse anesthetist from Portland. “So many women don’t have access to health care and many of them are dying.”


Hansen came to the event with her husband and expressed her hope that more men can get involved in the movement to protect reproductive rights.

“We may feel safe here in Maine, but the fight will never end,” she said.

Cathy Walter, a longtime volunteer for Planned Parenthood, leads protesters in a chant at Monument Square in Portland on Sunday, the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Cathy Walter of Gorham used a bullhorn to get rallygoers fired up.

While Walter, who is in her 60s, said she no longer has a personal stake in abortion rights, she said she felt compelled to volunteer Sunday night to protect the rights for the next generation. She has two adult children as well as grandchildren.

“I’m here because this issue is like the ERA (Equal Rights Admendment),” Walter said. “I’m not going to be happy until everyone has been taken care of.”

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