A little bit-known Maine courtroom case may assure abortion rights right here even when permissive state legal guidelines on the topic have been rolled again.
The June choice by the U.S. Supreme Courtroom to finish federal abortion rights had no rapid impact in Maine, the place Gov. Janet Mills and a Legislature led by her fellow Democrats have expanded abortion entry in recent times. Mills remains to be making contingency plans whereas dealing with a tricky 2022 problem from Gov. Paul LePage, an anti-abortion Republican.
After Mills spoke at a Wednesday abortion-rights rally in Portland, her workplace mentioned it was working with Lawyer Common Aaron Frey to find out whether or not the Maine Structure shields abortion rights. In the event that they discover it doesn’t, Mills would supply an modification if she is reelected in November.
The thought could also be largely educational for now. No main Maine courtroom circumstances are pending on abortion rights. Nonetheless, any discovering that abortion is protected additional may tackle elevated significance or controversy down the street if Republicans management Augusta and advance abortion restrictions.
Maine is among the many overwhelming majority of states that haven’t any express constitutional protections for abortion. However in a 2013 case on the constitutionality of a intercourse offender regulation, the Maine Supreme Judicial Courtroom famous that the 14th Modification to the U.S. Structure then protected the appropriate to abortion. It made that equal with a mirroring portion of the Maine Structure.
That call, together with others in states that acknowledge abortion rights, make as much as a powerful case that constitutional protections are already in impact, mentioned Marshall Tinkle, a Portland-based lawyer who wrote an often-cited e-book on the Maine Structure and has labored on circumstances with abortion-rights teams which have needed to check the idea.
“It could have been nicer if the Legislation Courtroom had particularly mentioned, ‘Yeah, underneath the state structure, there’s a proper to abortion,’” he mentioned. “They haven’t fairly mentioned that, however it may be inferred from the  choice and from comparable state selections.”
Solely 9 states have abortion codified of their constitutions, NARAL Professional-Alternative America mentioned in 2021. That quantity seems prone to enhance within the aftermath of the Dobbs ruling, with Vermont and New York advancing constitutional amendments to enshrine abortion rights.
Whereas Mills may advance one in Maine, two-thirds of lawmakers in each chambers should log out on a constitutional modification earlier than it goes to voters. Within the present Legislature, Republicans would have the votes to dam one. They did so with an equal-rights modification early this 12 months, citing the likelihood that judges may use it to enshrine abortion rights.
NARAL has put Maine on an inventory of states that doesn’t present agency constitutional rights to abortion, though Nicole Clegg, the spokesperson for Deliberate Parenthood of Northern New England, mentioned her group considers the matter unresolved.
It has pushed circumstances on this concern prior to now, together with in a 2015 lawsuit during which abortion suppliers sued the state to overturn a decades-old prohibition on public funding for many abortions. The state’s excessive courtroom by no means issued a call since Mills and Democrats modified the regulation in 2019 to permit protection underneath MaineCare, the state’s model of Medicaid.
“We felt there was sufficient there within the Structure to assist these rights,” Clegg mentioned.
The thought faces resistance. The Maine Structure doesn’t present a proper to abortion “and any try and create a so-called proper to abortion out of skinny air ought to be rejected,” mentioned Denise Burke, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, a authorized group aligned with evangelicals.
“Authorities officers ought to be doing every thing they will to guard our most weak Individuals and be certain that households have the assets they want and deserve,” she mentioned.