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LePage's abortion stance is top of mind for voters – and Maine Democrats – ahead of the midterms

Andrew Harnik
Associated Press

Maine Democrats continue to target former Republican Gov. Paul LePage on the issue of abortion, which polls suggest is a top motivator for many voters headed into the midterm elections.

LePage has said repeatedly that, if he is elected this November, he does not plan to try to reverse Maine's law guaranteeing women the right to an abortion. But on Tuesday, Democrats said a recent questionnaire that LePage completed for the Christian Civic League of Maine suggests otherwise.

In the survey, LePage answered "yes" to the question "Should access to abortion be restricted?" The Maine Democratic Party highlighted LePage’s response to the survey from the Christian Civic League of Maine – a vocal opponent of abortion in Maine – on Tuesday as evidence that Lepage “supports efforts to restrict access to reproductive health care for women across Maine.” Abortion also came up several times during Maine Democratic Party event earlier Tuesday where party leaders and lawmaker raised concerns about what LePage would do if voters chose him over incumbent Democratic Gov. Janet Mills this November.

"He will gut the right to safe and legal abortion in Maine every chance he gets,” said Rep. Lois Galgay Reckitt, D-South Portland. “We can't let him have that chance."

But LePage campaign spokesman Brent Littlefield said a 1993 Maine law already guarantees women’s access to abortion while still prohibiting the procedure after a fetus has reached viability unless the health or life of the mother is at risk. Littlefield said LePage does not intend to try to repeal that law but that he would prefer pregnant women consider giving up a baby for adoption as an alternative to abortion. Littlefield then sought to turn the tables on Mills.

“The governor's point is that there is a law that has been on the books for many years in Maine that already contains a restriction which relates to viability of the fetus,” Littlefield said. “And Janet Mills has yet to answer whether or not she would remove that restriction.”

Abortion has emerged as a top issue nationwide heading into the midterm elections. And recent polls suggest that Democrats could be benefiting from the Supreme Court's decision this summer to repeal the Roe vs. Wade decision that guaranteed a right to abortion at the federal level. The issue is playing in the battle for control of Congress as well as in gubernatorial elections across the country, including in Maine.

A recent Wall Street Journal poll of more than 1,300 registered voters found that abortion was more likely to draw voters to the polls than any other issue, including inflation. And poll respondents ranked abortion second only to the economy when asked about the most important issue affecting their vote for Congress this fall.

Maine Democrats have accused LePage and his Republican counterparts for Congress and the State House of wanting to further restrict access to abortion in Maine but of keeping their plans secret to avoid ostracizing moderate or independent voters. Earlier this year before the Supreme Court decision on Roe, Maine Republican Party activists officially embraced the position that life begin at conception as part of the state GOP’s party platform. But while talking with reporters in July, LePage said access to abortion is quote "the law of the state."

“It is legal,” LePage said. “Nobody is saying they are going to reverse it. I am certainly not involved in reversing it or even attempt to do anything against abortion.

The Mills campaign did not immediately respond to a question about whether the governor wants to change Maine's current ban on post-viability abortions.