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Abortion referendum advances in Maine

Statehouse in Augusta, Maine Associated Press/Photo by Robert F. Bukaty

Abortion referendum advances in Maine

The Maine Legislature’s Judiciary Committee narrowly approved a resolution on Thursday to have citizens vote on whether to enshrine “personal reproductive autonomy” in the state’s constitution. The measure was approved with a 6-5 vote on partisan lines. Two Republican legislators were absent from the vote. The state Senate and the House of Representatives must approve the measure before it may appear on the ballot for citizens in November. Democrats currently run both chambers of the legislature and only need two Republican votes to pass the measure in the Senate. Legislators passed a law last year rescinding previous protections for children in the womb after around 24 weeks of gestation. The state now allows abortion any time during a pregnancy if the procedure is “necessary in the professional judgment of a physician.”

How will the measure be presented to voters? The current resolution has voters respond “yes” or “no” to the question: “Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to declare that every person has a right to personal reproductive autonomy?” However, this verbiage could be changed in future drafts of the resolution.

What does the measure define as “personal reproductive autonomy”? The resolution does not define the phrase outright, but “personal reproductive autonomy” has become legislative shorthand for abortion and birth control measures. Citizens in Maryland are preparing to vote on a similar “Right to Reproductive Freedom” amendment to their state constitution in November. That measure defines reproductive freedom in part as “the ability to make and effectuate decisions to prevent, continue, or end one’s own pregnancy.”

Dig deeper: Read Lillian Hamman’s report on Pennsylvania state lawmakers pushing to reduce pro-life protections for unborn babies.

Christina Grube

Christina Grube is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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