Saturday, January 12, 2008

Abortion in Maine, Part Two

Abortion in Maine could very well be legal even if Roe v. Wade is actually overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

At least that's the thesis of Jeffrey Rosen's very interesting--if a bit dated--piece "The Day After Roe" in the June 2006 edition of The Atlantic. Rosen, a Professor of Law at George Washington University and the legal affairs editor at The New Republic, wades through the murky waters that such an explosive hypothetical would leave in its wake and comes up with some thoughts that may surprise you a bit.

To be sure, Rosen does believe abortion would be illegal in some states if Roe v. Wade were overturned. However, according to Rosen, Maine probably would not be one of those states. In fact, Rosen lumps Maine in with twenty-three other states in which a woman's right to choose would be protected without Roe v. Wade. Moreover, Rosen says that Maine is one of six states that "already have laws on the books protecting choice throughout pregnancy." Rosen does not merely point to pre-existing laws as evidence that abortion will remain legal in states such as Maine. Public opinion, for example, would play a big role.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to dig up public opinion polls capturing Mainers' thoughts on the legality of abortion, but I wouldn't be surprised if Mainers' opinions were similar to the findings Rosen cites in his piece: "In national Gallup Polls over the last thirty years, two-thirds of Americans have consistently said that abortion should be legal in the first trimester of pregnancy, although in the second trimester, the number plummets to 25 percent, and in the third trimester it falls further, to 10 percent." Moreover, Mainers have elected a majority of Democrats--typically the pro-choice party--to the State House and State Senate, as well as a majority of pro-choice politicians to the Blaine House and the U.S. House and Senate. This pro-choice voting record reflects not only Mainers' public opinion about the legality of abortion, but it also ensures abortion would probably still be legal in Maine, even if Roe v. Wade were overturned.

All this is a very long-winded way of saying that the next time a fellow Mainer tells you to vote for a certain presidential candidate to ensure the Supreme Court illegalizes abortion (or protects its legality) in Maine, tell them it's not that simple. And when they ask you why, tell them to click here.

- John C.L. Morgan

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