Abortion Amendment Disqualified from Maine 2024 Election Ballot

According to the Maine Division of Public Health Systems’ most recent data, there were 2,225 abortions in the state in 2022, up from 1,915 in 2021.

Maine State House in Augusta, Maine.
Maine State House in Augusta, Maine. (photo: Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock)

A proposed constitutional amendment allowing abortion until birth in Maine was disqualified from the November ballot this week after it failed to gain enough votes in the state Legislature.

Though the amendment proposal received a majority of votes this week — 75-65 in the House and 20-13 in the Senate — it failed to reach the required two-thirds supermajority in either body to be added to the ballot.

If it had reached the required supermajority, the “Protect Personal Reproductive Autonomy” amendment proposal would have been included in Maine voters’ November ballot. 

Maine citizens would have been asked to vote yes or no on the question: “Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to declare that every person has a right to personal reproductive autonomy?"

If passed by voters, the amendment would have altered the state constitution to declare that Maine “may not deny or infringe on the right to personal reproductive autonomy,” unless the denial or infringement “is justified by a compelling state interest” and “is accomplished using the means that least denies or infringes” on that “right.”

The amendment would have further expanded abortion in what is already one of the most permissive states in the union. Abortion is currently legal in Maine until viability; it is further permitted after viability if deemed necessary by a physician.

According to the Maine Division of Public Health Systems’ most recent data, there were 2,225 abortions in the state in 2022, up from 1,915 in 2021.

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Portland, Maine, told CNA that the diocese is “grateful” that the required two-thirds of the Legislature “did not cooperate with this attack on the dignity of human life.”

In a strongly worded condemnation of the amendment issued earlier this year, Bishop Robert Deeley of Portland called it “immoral and unnecessary.”

“This is a political attempt to distract from the heinous law passed last June that eliminated any restrictions for abortion,” Deeley said. “A change to the constitution to promote abortion on demand will affect unborn children who cannot speak for themselves but will suffer the ultimate price.”

Daniel Schmid, an attorney for the national religious liberty law firm Liberty Counsel, told CNA that the measure’s defeat is a “positive step forward for Maine because they’re fairly progressive in their abortion laws.”

“I think it’s always a good day when an amendment is defeated that would have otherwise legalized abortion at all stages,” he said.

Schmid argued that the Maine amendment was particularly deceptive in its wording.

“You’re asking, ‘Do you support a woman’s autonomy?’ A lot of people support that type of language, not knowing that, oh yeah, that means that they can kill a child right before birth,” he said.

Schmid said that the amendment would have meant that “any regulation that was ever put forward that concerned abortion would have had to satisfy the most demanding test known to constitutional law.”

“If you’re in that test, the law rarely passes,” he said. “So that basically was setting up an impossible hurdle for even reasonable regulations of the practice of abortion in Maine.”

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, five states — California, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Vermont — have passed constitutional amendments enshrining abortion into state law. 

Three states, meanwhile — New York, Maryland, and Florida — have finalized abortion-until-birth amendments that will be included in this November’s ballot. Ten more states could add similar amendment proposals to their ballot as well.

Schmid called the proposed amendments across the country “a fatal threat to unborn children in all of the states.”

“The proponents of these [amendments], they’re clever in trying to hide their intent in the language, but the effect of all of these amendments is essentially to legalize unrestricted abortion at will, and they ought to be honest about that,” he said. 

“Most states require that your ballot initiative not be deceptive, that it not try to confuse voters, that it tell them what it’s doing. Most of them do not, and they’re dumping millions of dollars into these initiatives to try to deceive the people into voting for them, not knowing that what they’re voting for is unrestricted, unrestrained abortion at will.”

“After 50 years of the genocide of Roe, we’re not going to start it all over again at the state level,” he continued. “The pro-life community needs to be vocal about that and needs to stand up and say no, people won’t tolerate this.”

A full breakdown of where abortion is on the ballot this election year can be seen here.