It has been referred to as the abortion amendment, but to its sponsor, enshrining an individual’s right to bodily autonomy in the Maine Constitution would protect much more than a woman’s right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

Sen. Craig Hickman, D-Kennebec, on the Senate floor in 2022. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“It is my belief completely that bodily autonomy isn’t just about reproductive freedom,” said Sen. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop. “My body, my choice. No one has any right to tell me what I can and cannot do with it except for me. If I do not have control over my own body, am I truly free?”

His proposed amendment could protect someone from unwanted vaccinations, for example. It might help protect someone from being involuntarily committed. It could give trafficking victims the legal standing to sue the person who trafficked them in civil court.

Ultimately, all those questions would be left for the courts to decide.

I’m not afraid to ask the court any question,” Hickman said.

Lawmakers debated these what-if scenarios during a public hearing Friday in a mostly empty committee room. One person testified against the proposed amendment. In contrast, hundreds showed up two weeks ago to oppose Gov. Janet Mills’ later-in-pregnancy abortion bill.


“While I strongly believe in personal freedom and bodily rights, the intent of the bill is quite the opposite, it’s a little vague,” said Jonathan Martell, a Sanford city councilor. “This bill may be used to further abortion, and child mutilation or transition, whatever you want to call it.”

Hickman said the amendment wouldn’t hinder criminal justice because those convicted of a crime already forfeit many rights, including bodily autonomy. Nor would it apply to a fetus because the Constitution only protects those who stand alone and by themselves in the world.

Rep. John Andrews, left, chats with Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham before a House Ethics Committee meeting at the Maine State House in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Judiciary Committee member Rep. John Andrews, R-Paris, asked how the amendment would apply to children.

“How would this apply to minors under the age of 18 when you have to balance parental rights versus bodily autonomy?” he said during Friday’s hearing. “I can completely see my 10-year-old telling me he doesn’t have to eat his vegetables … It’s a fine needle to thread.”

Children do not have full constitutional rights. However, a child in control of their body is less likely to fall victim to sexual abuse and domestic violence. If abused, they’re more likely to disclose it. But the government is tasked with protecting children from abuse, not vegetables, Hickman said.

On the issue of vaccines, Hickman told Democrats on the committee, some of them skeptical, that he believed the courts already have settled many of these questions. But he said he strongly believes that government needs to find ways to use education, not coercion, to promote and protect public health.


“When you come from a history of people who were experimented upon without our consent, who had hysterectomies without our consent, you can imagine some of us have some mistrust over a system that says you must put this in your body,” said Hickman, who is Black. “But I’m vaccinated.”

Hickman’s proposal is one of 30 constitutional amendments lawmakers are considering this session, tackling topics ranging from housing to human rights to ranked-choice voting. That is the highest number since the 2004 session when the Legislature considered 38 proposed amendments.

Last session, 22 constitutional amendments were proposed, including a right to privacy, equal rights for women, and a healthy environment. None, however, earned the two-thirds support in the Legislature needed to land a spot on the ballot for consideration by Maine voters, which has become a near-impossibility in an era of sharply divided government.

In 2021, Maine voters approved the nation’s first “right to food” constitutional amendment. Voters overwhelmingly supported the change, even though there were questions about how the right would impact food safety and animal welfare. Lawsuits invoking the amendment have been filed in court already.

Legislative committees also took action on a slate of other abortion bills this week. Endorsed bills head to the House and Senate for consideration. Opposed bills are not necessarily dead, as lawmakers can try to revive them on the House or Senate floor, although their odds are long.

• Health Coverage Committee endorsed a bill from Rep. Matt Moonen, D-Portland, that requires insurance companies to waive copayments and deductibles for abortion services.


• Judiciary Committee opposed a bill from Rep. Kathy Javner, R-Chester, to repeal the state law providing abortion services through MaineCare and state payment for abortions when not covered by Medicaid.

• Judiciary Committee opposed a bill from Rep. Reagan Paul, R-Winter Harbor, that would prohibit medication abortion pills from being prescribed over telehealth or mailed to patients.

• Judiciary Committee endorsed a bill from Rep. Laurie Supica, D-Bangor, that would prevent municipalities from passing ordinances that contradict state abortion laws.

• Judiciary Committee opposed a bill from Rep. Abigail Griffin, R-Levant, that would require a provider to offer an ultrasound to a patient at least 48 hours before the abortion.

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