With Maine set to broadly expand access to abortion, pro-life advocates in that state are taking "a moment to regroup," said an official from the Diocese of Portland.
Maine's Democratic Gov. Janet Mills is expected to sign bill LD 1619, which allows for surgical abortions after viability -- generally considered around 24 weeks of pregnancy -- if deemed "necessary in the professional judgment of a (licensed) physician."
The measure was amended to reduce criminal penalties for performing an abortion without being medically licensed to a Class E crime. The original version of the bill would have eliminated criminal penalties entirely. Class E is the lowest level of criminal offense in Maine. Persons convicted of Class E crimes face up to six months in jail and up to a $1000 fine.
Under Maine's existing abortion law, the offense would be considered a Class C crime, with a conviction leading to three to five years of prison time and up to a $5,000 fine.
The law already allows not just licensed physicians, but also physician assistants and advance practice registered nurses to carry out abortions.
The measure, which will make the state one of the least restrictive on abortion, is "terribly (disappointing) not only for the state of Maine, but for women and children," Suzanne Lafreniere, director of the Diocese of Portland's office of public policy, told OSV News. "The abortion lobby here got what they wanted, which is abortion on demand, for any reason, at any time."
Lafreniere said the legislation "pits the mother against the child," with abortion ultimately "an uncompassionate response to a difficult situation."
At the same time, she commended the efforts of pro-life advocates in what she called a "David and Goliath" battle that narrowed the vote.
"I'm incredibly grateful for the legislators who worked hard to fight against the bill, in particular the pro-life Democrats in the (state) House who stood firm against incredible pressure," said Lafreniere.
She was also thankful for the "amazing Catholics ... and other Christians" who came to Maine's capitol "day after day" and dedicated "very late nights" to countering the bill.
Lafreniere said she remains hopeful pro-life efforts will prevail in Maine despite the expansion of abortion access.
"I know God's going to do something important and wonderful in the wreckage of this," she said.