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Hundreds of abortion rights supporters rally in Portland after leaked SCOTUS opinion

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Patty Wight
Maine Public
A Women's March in Portland in Jan. 2020.

On Tuesday evening, hundreds of abortion rights supporters gathered at the federal courthouse in Portland to rally in response to a draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade.

The leaked draft opinion has health providers deeply concerned about the future of abortion access. Though Maine has state-level protections and could serve as a refuge for women from elsewhere in the US, providers are worried that access here could be stripped away by any future change in the state's political landscape.

For 29 years, the right to abortion has been protected in Maine through the Reproductive Rights Act. And George Hill of Maine Family Planning says that will continue, even now that the future of Roe v. Wade is in doubt.

"The takeaway for us, here in Maine, is that no matter what the Supreme Court does, abortion care is going to remain accessible to all patients who want it in this state," Hill says.

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Patty Wight
Maine Public
An abortion rights Portland rally on May 3, 2022. Though Maine has state-level protections and could serve as a refuge for women from elsewhere in the U.S., providers are worried that access here could be stripped away by any future change in the state’s political landscape

Maine could even become a destination for women who can't access abortion in their home states. To prepare for that possibility, Hill says Maine Family Planning is training more providers to perform first trimester abortions. The organization also provides medication abortion at its rural clinics, which Hill says frees up space at clinics near major transportation centers that are more likely to see out-of-state patients.

Other providers say they've already given abortion care to patients from states that have restricted access. Nicole Clegg is a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

"We've already seen this, with Texas, where SB 8 went into effect Sept. 1," Clegg says. "And since that time, we've had people traveling from Texas to Maine to access legal abortion care."

At the Mabel Wadsworth Center in Bangor, Abbie Strout-Bentes says capacity could be expanded if necessary. But she says traveling here from other states is not a realistic solution for many women.

"People who have money are going to be able to travel, so it's going to be hardest felt on communities that are already working hard to make ends meet."

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Patty Wight
Maine Public
Nicole Clegg of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England speaks into a bullhorn at a Portland rally for abortion rights on May 3, 2022 in response to a draft US Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade.

And even though Maine may initially be insulated from a repeal of Roe v. Wade, Nicole Clegg of Planned Parenthood says that protection could be taken away if anti-abortion candidates are elected to office.

"While we have these protections and we celebrate them in Maine, they're laws. They're subject to repeal," Clegg says. "Who's in the Blaine House matters. Who's in our House and Senate matters. They'll be the ones deciding who has access and who doesn't."

Clegg and other providers say they hope the prospect of Roe v. Wade being overturned will galvanize support for abortion access and translate into votes at the polls.

Heather Jamieson of Scarborough was at the rally Tuesday, and says she's angry and upset.

"I have two daughters. I'm worried for my daughters, I'm worried for their friends, I'm worried for my grandchildren. Banning abortion does not stop abortions. It only creates unsafe abortions," Jamieson says.

Jamieson was among many at the rally focused on Sen. Susan Collins, who voted to confirm recent Supreme Court justices who sided with the draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade. Jamieson says she hopes Senator Susan Collins will "do what's right" and codify abortion access in the Constitution.

Chrissy Hart of Portland says she's terrified by what she describes as the assault on abortion rights, but she's hopeful that justices will change their minds before they issue a final decision.

"I think that the Supreme Court does pay attention to the court of public opinion, and I think mobilization between now and whenever the ultimate decision is handed out is going to be really important, for us all to show up and say this is totally unacceptable," Hart says.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue a final opinion in June.