AUGUSTA — An effort to amend the Maine Constitution to protect the right to an abortion appears to be over after a second vote fell short in the House of Representatives late Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the Senate referred the proposal to what’s known as the appropriations table, meaning it has not been killed and could still be revived even though the proposal clearly lacks the support to move forward this year.

A majority in both the Senate and House supported the bill, but Republican opposition ensured that it did not get enough votes in the House Tuesday to send it to a statewide referendum. Proposed constitutional amendments must get two-thirds support in both chambers before going to voters for final approval.

The House voted 76-68 in favor of the amendment Tuesday afternoon and then voted again 75-65 in support of the bill late Tuesday night – falling short of the 101 votes needed to advance it to voters. The Senate voted 20-13 in support of the bill last week, also short of the two-thirds.

The proposal, L.D. 780, was sponsored by Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, and came forward in the wake of the 2022 U.S. Supreme court decision that overturned federal protections for the right to an abortion. The decision has prompted states around the country to contemplate changes to abortion law, including in California, Michigan, Vermont and Ohio, where voters have enshrined abortion rights in their state constitutions following the ruling.

Tuesday’s House votes in Maine came the same day as the Arizona Supreme Court upheld an 1864 law that bans nearly all abortions in that state. The court there said that with the federal right to abortion overturned, there was nothing preventing the state from enforcing the 160-year-old law.


In Maine, Vitelli and supporters of her bill have said that while Maine passed a new, more expansive abortion law last year guaranteeing a right to an abortion later in pregnancy, abortion and other reproductive health rights should not be subject to year-to-year changes to state law and should be protected in the state constitution.

“For over 50 years, access to birth control and safe, and legal reproductive health allowed women to take greater control over their ever-challenging balance act between work and family, giving us greater opportunity to participate fully in our communities and the economy,” House Majority Leader Mo Terry, D-Gorham, said in a floor speech. “This is no longer an assurance my daughters or other women of their generation can count on.”

She encouraged other lawmakers to send the proposal to voters.

“A constitutional amendment protecting reproductive autonomy would provide stability and clarity amidst the ever-changing landscape of reproductive rights at the national level,” Terry said. “It would ensure the right to abortion remains protected in our state regardless of any potential future changes to the composition of this Legislature, the chief executive’s office, federal legislation or judicial decisions.”

In addition to abortion, the bill would protect other aspects of reproductive health such as access to birth control and fertility care.



Opponents Tuesday said the bill violates the rights of unborn children. Rep. David Haggan, R-Hampden, called it a “slap in the face to unborn babies and humanity.”

“If this thing goes through I will be ashamed to be a Mainer,” Haggan said. “A constitutional amendment to murder a vibrant and viable human being is unconscionable to me.”

The first House vote was almost along party lines, though two Democrats joined Republicans in opposing the bill. They were Rep. Michel Lajoie, D-Lewiston, and Rep. Bruce White, D-Waterville. Six lawmakers were absent.

In the second vote, 10 lawmakers were absent. All Republicans present voted against the bill while all Democrats present, with the exception of White, were in support.

In order to get two-thirds support, the 151-member House needed to see 101 members vote in favor of the bill and the 35-member Senate would need 24 votes.

Regardless of whether the bill ends up before voters this fall, advocates said on Tuesday that it could still play a role in November elections.

“Every lawmaker can count on Mainers taking note of whether their elected representatives chose to let Mainers have a voice at the ballot box or whether their lawmakers chose to silence them,” said Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund Vice President Lisa Margulies in a statement.

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