This month marks the arrival of two milestones: the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision, and the second annual Maternal Health Awareness Day. Both occasions fall on January 22 & 23 respectively, and both have been rendered bittersweet by last June’s disastrous Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling, reversing a half-century of precedent and leaving a trail of ethical, legal, and health crises in its wake.
With Governor Mills in the Blaine House ensuring Maine’s commitment to the future of reproductive health remains strong, the battle to preserve everything Roe stood for looms incredibly large. At the national level, abortions saw an immediate reduction following Dobbs, and the US remains the world’s leader among high-income nations in maternal mortality rate. Back in June we reacted swiftly to the Dobbs leak and did everything we could to help you combat despair with real actions that support organizations like Maine Family Planning and hold elected officials accountable.
And the result was a midterm election that sent a clear, national message to the anti-abortion movement. Here in Maine, Governor Mills responded to Dobbs by signing an executive order that further supports people seeking abortions, expanding on key protections that have been in effect since 1993. And at the state level, Mainers mobilized in November to elect one of the most diverse state houses in history; earlier this week Governor Mills, Speaker Talbot Ross, and Senate President Jackson joined with allies at the State House to announce a slate of bills designed to further protect abortion patients and providers in Maine.
But there is so much more work ahead in Maine. While the state outpaced national abortion statistics following Dobbs thanks to federal funding and Medicaid expansion, deep wealth and race disparities in maternal health remains. Black, Indigenous, and people of color continue to face hostile medical providers, and community distrust of the health system remains a powerful driver of disparities in prenatal care. A 2022 report by the Commission on Racial, Indigenous, and Maine Tribal Populations showed that these disparities may only be the tip of the iceberg. Real barriers to shared, accurate, and culturally sensitive data collection persist in key research efforts associated with maternal health statistics.
Nationally, the Dobbs decision also opened an extremely troubling door for efforts to ban gender-affirming care and pose restrictions to IVF treatments, all of which could directly affect Maine’s LGBTQIA+ community. In fact, within weeks of the Supreme ruling, Alabama’s attorney general unveiled an effort to restrict access to gender-affirming care.
We remain as committed as ever to addressing disparities, and partnering with researchers, providers, and advocates for critical efforts in the future to maintain and expand access to quality care for all. Let Roe’s 50th serve as a solemn reminder that opposition to reproductive care and sexual healthcare remains unrelenting. But as the last year has shown, we have the tools and willpower to stay vigilant, defeat that opposition, and break down the remaining barriers. Now, let’s get back to work.