An unprecedented number of opponents testified in the Maine State Capitol against a proposed abortion bill on Monday.
Each proponent testifying in favor or opposing the bill was permitted two minutes, though committee chairs Sen. Anne Carney and Rep. Matthew Moonen reduced the allotted time to one minute following the unprecedented public attendance.
Over 1,500 opponents appeared for a public hearing before the Judiciary Committee opposing LD 1619, which would permit abortion after fetal viability “when it is necessary in the professional judgment of of a physician,” the legislation states.
The bill was introduced by Governor Janet Mills and House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, who described it as a protection of reproductive rights.
“We trust medical professionals to provide care that is in their medical judgment,” Talbot Ross said, per ABC affiliate WMTW. “This legislation is compassionate. It is bound by science and best medical practices, and it recognizes abortion as health care.”
In response to opponents who called the bill extreme, Mills told reporters, “What is extreme is forcing a woman to become dangerously ill from her pregnancy in order to access abortion care. What is extreme is forcing a woman to give birth to a child who is going to immediately die. What is extreme is forcing a woman to leave her state to seek health care.”
While 65 people provided testimony in support of the bill, 675 signed up to speak in opposition to the legislation.
“This purely discriminatory move disenfranchised hundreds of Maine citizens trying to participate in the democratic process,” wrote state Rep. Laurel Libby in a statement. “These Maine citizens should have been allowed their full opportunity to speak.”
“Why have a public hearing if you aren’t going to listen to the public? This is a shameful failure on the part of the Judiciary Committee.”
Statement from Maine State Rep. Laurel Libby on the LD1619 Public Hearing: pic.twitter.com/2VBinBtt6w
— Bre S (@fearmeitsbre) May 4, 2023
Timcast News spoke with Maine native and podcaster Bre Small, who goes by the handle “fearmeitsbre” and hosts a podcast of the same name, about her experience opposing the bill.
Small stayed at the Capitol over 19 hours throughout the night in anticipation of providing testimony against the legislation.
“There was a long line to get past the security checkpoint that moved surprisingly fast for the volume of people,” Small said. “While I waited in line, I talked to a couple who had driven over an hour to come testify against LD1619, and a small elderly man who refused multiple offers of an umbrella.”
“He stood proudly in the pelting, icy rain and wind to come stand in opposition to the bill and in support of the lives of the unborn.”
Small, 24, is a stay-at-home mother who said she felt a duty to appear before the Maine state Judiciary Committee to provide testimony opposing the bill.
“Once I made it inside, I stood in another line for about an hour to be scheduled into a testimony block list,” she continued. “The line to testify in opposition to the bill stretched for three floors and snaked up staircases to the signup table on the third floor. The line to testify in favor was almost non-existent.”
Small said opponents of the bill began clapping and cheering inside the Capitol in the Hall of Flags as they rallied together.
“The pro-choice side testifying in favor of the bill mostly stayed away from us, and sequestered themselves in a viewing area. … I never made it out onto the lawn to see the handful of protesters I knew were out there,” she said. “One older gentleman did eventually make his way into the Hall of Flags with a homemade sign reading ‘Lawyers Arrested! Liberty Not A Right Political Police Power! Abortion Providers Arrested Deprived of Liberty!’ and was shouting something about his belief in abortion being a Fourteenth Amendment Right.”
The State Judiciary Committee heard testimony from supporters of the abortion bill for about four hours.
“We were supposed to have three minutes to testify. The judiciary changed it to two minutes, but still allowed most the pro-choice side to go over the two minute rule — overruling the Republican Legislators who tried to fight them over enforcing the time limit,” Small reported. “By the time the pro-life side began to testify against the bill around 4:00 p.m., they had cut the time limit again to one minute each.”
“As a mom of two small children, who was sacrificing time with them and my husband, many of the pro-choice testimonies about the ‘convenience’ of a pregnancy or having a child in general, really made my blood boil,” Small added, saying testimonies from supporters of the bill were self-centered and dehumanizing towards babies in the womb.
One day, if and when abortion is looked back on as we look at slavery in America, as the barbaric and unimaginable practice it is, I am proud to tell my children and future grandchildren that I was one of the hundreds of voices that stood up in opposition to the expansion of late-term abortion in our state.
Opponents of the bill continued cheering and clapping after each testimony opposing the legislation.
“The opposition to the bill was diverse in age and background,” Small said. “One testimony in particular came from a fifteen-year-old girl, while others came from elderly men and woman who stayed through the night. Men, women, and children, young and old, from all over the State of Maine came to speak against this bill. I finally had the opportunity to stand before the Judiciary Committee and make my case against LD1619 around 3:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning. Many of us were tired, and ready for bed but as many of us as possible stayed to make sure our voices were heard.”
“After about 19 hours, I ended up leaving the capital around 5:30 a.m. to go home and get some sleep, and the testimonies in opposition continued until a little after 7:00 a.m.”
“This was an unprecedented and historic turnout for a Judiciary hearing in the state of Maine,” Small concluded. “The people of Maine have spoken, they do not want late-term abortion for any and every reason in their state.”
“Now it is up to the Legislature to vote with the people they represent, and not the agenda.”