Advocates gathered in the Hall of Flags at the State House on Jan. 22 to support a proposal to add the right to abortion to the Maine Constitution. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

AUGUSTA — A legislative committee voted along party lines Thursday in favor of a proposed constitutional amendment to protect abortion access in Maine, a sign the measure is likely to fall short in the full Legislature.

The Judiciary Committee voted 6-5 in favor of the proposal Thursday with two members absent. Democrats present were unanimous in their support for the bill while Republicans present were unanimous in opposition.

While Democrats hold the majority of seats in both the House and Senate, they don’t have enough votes to advance the proposal without Republican support. Two-thirds support is needed in each chamber to pass a constitutional amendment, which also needs to be ratified by voters in a statewide election.

The proposal now heads to the Maine Senate, where at least two Republicans would need to join Democrats in support for the measure to advance. Democrats hold 22 of 35 seats and the proposal would need 24 votes.

Democrats hold 80 of the 151 seats in the House, where the bill would need 101 votes to reach the two-thirds threshold.

The proposal comes as states around the country are taking steps to restrict or expand abortion rights in the wake of the 2022 Supreme Court case that overturned Roe v. Wade.


The sponsor of the measure pledged to keep pushing for support on the floor.

“It passed committee, so that’s good,” said Senate Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, the bill’s sponsor. “So now we take it to the Senate and try to get a couple senators from the other side of the aisle to support this moving forward.”

Vitelli said she has yet to discuss the proposal with her Republican colleagues. “But I’m going to give it all I have and I think there’s a lot of support (in the State House) for moving it out for the people to vote on,” she said.

The bill comes on the heels of a law passed last session that expanded abortion access in Maine later in pregnancy. Vitelli and other supporters of her proposal say it’s important to protect the right to abortion and reproductive freedom in the state constitution, where it would be harder to change than in state laws.

A public hearing on the proposed amendment drew six hours of passionate testimony last month, with opponents saying abortion does not constitute health care and violates the rights of the unborn.

“If I were confident this was an amendment about birth control and individuals making choices for themselves, with no other third party impacted, I would be confident supporting this,” said Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, just before the committee’s vote.


“But this is also about when there are two human beings involved in the question,” he said. “I think the legal questions there get a lot more complicated when we’re talking about the rights of two human beings.”

Rep. Amy Kuhn, D-Falmouth, said she supports the idea of sending the question to voters. “The people of Maine ought to be able to decide this issue outside of this committee room and the chambers downstairs,” she said.

Rep. Rachel Henderson, R-Rumford, said her vote was not about not wanting to send the question to voters. Lawmakers are obligated to vet the proposal, she said.

“This is not a desire for us to silence the people of Maine,” she said. “It’s the opposite, to allow the people of Maine to speak through us, because we are their voice here.”

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