Paul LePage struggles to answer abortion question in debate with Maine governor.Janet Mills

During his two terms as Maine governor, Republican Paul LePage took part in anti-abortion rallies, arguing “we shouldn’t have abortions,” and in 2018 said that if the Supreme Court moved to overturn Roe v. Wade“let’s do it.”

But LePage was more cautious about his views on reproductive rights during Tuesday night’s gubernatorial debate, finding it difficult to respond directly when asked what he would do if the Maine legislature imposed additional restrictions on abortion in the state. Many times, he avoided answering the question directly, protesting that it was a hypothetical question or that he didn’t understand it.

LePage’s embarrassing performance on Tuesday underscores where many anti-abortion Republicans stand four months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that has guaranteed abortion rights in the United States for nearly half a century. The decision galvanized Democratic voters — and put some Republican candidates on the defensive — in a midterm election cycle that typically favors parties that are not in power.

On Tuesday night, a host first asked Maine’s governor if he would. Janet Mills (D) will support the removal of the “viability” limit in Maine’s current abortion law, which allows abortion until “the life of the fetus can continue indefinitely outside the womb through natural or artificial life support.” After that, abortion can only be performed when it is necessary to protect the life or health of the mother.

Mills, who has served as Maine’s governor since 2019, said she has no plans to change state laws, which she said reflect Roe v. Wade.

“I believe women’s right to choose is this: It’s a woman’s right, not a politician’s right, and certainly not a right of Mr. Trump. LePage or anyone in public office,” Mills said. “As long as I am governor, reproductive health care rights will never be considered dispensable. My veto powers will hinder any effort to undermine, overturn or outright eliminate the right to safe and legal abortion in Maine.”

“I’ve never wavered in that position, never ambiguous, never at fault,” she added sharply.

When the moderator started asking LePage the same question, he himself joined in.

“I was Governor of Maine for eight years. I never tried, once Do it — even talk about the abortion bill, because I believe — the bill that’s in place right now is a good one,” said LePage, who served as Maine governor from 2011 to 2019. “I believe in protecting the life of mothers from rape. …and incest. I also believe in feasibility. “

Since Roe v. Wade was overthrown. These restrictions on reproductive rights re-raise a key question. (Video: Hannah Jewell, Lindsey Sitz, Casey Silvestri/The Washington Post)

The moderator pointed out that the question is actually different. What would he do as governor if the state legislature presented him with a bill that would add additional restrictions, such as reducing the lifespan to 15 weeks or requiring parental consent before a minor could receive an abortion?

“I support the current law,” LePage said.

“If they gave you these bills, wouldn’t you sign them?” the host asked.

“That’s right,” LePage said.

Mills interrupted: “Well, are you going to make it law without your signature?” she asked.

“I don’t know…” LePage said.

“It’s another option,” Mills said. “You know. You’re the governor. You know what the options are. Would you allow it to become law without your signature?”

A visibly flustered LePage dropped the pen on the ground, then leaned over to pick it up, hitting back at Mills: “Will it happen? you Let the baby breathe? Can you let the baby take a breath…”

Mills stopped and repeated her question more slowly. “Would you let restrictive laws go into effect without your signature? You would blockage Limit abortion? “

“Will I stop? Or will—?” LePage said. “That’s what I’ll do. With the law in effect now, I have the same place as you. I’ll respect the law as it is. You’re talking about an assumption.”

“Oh, we’re not,” Mills replied, smiling and shaking his head.

“What if you say, we’re going to lift the restrictions and make it an illegal viability?” LePage continued. “No, I won’t sign that. I’ll veto. Feasibility is legal now.”

After a brief pause, the moderator pointed out that LePage still hadn’t answered the question. Will he veto additional restrictions placed on him? LePage asked for an example. The host offered them again.

“If you were talking about whether I would veto a bill that would change viability, I would go to a medical professional and tell me,” LePage said, shrugging. “I don’t know what you mean by 15 weeks or 28 weeks. Because I don’t know. I mean, I’m not sure I understand the question.”

A generation Understand the issue,” Mills said flatly. “I wouldn’t let a law like this go into effect. My veto can and will hinder any restrictions on abortion rights. “

“When you say constraints — I am, I’m trying to understand the issue,” LePage said.

Another moderator asked the question one last time.

“So, Governor LePage, if the Legislature comes to you and says we want to change the Maine law, not the current 28-week viability, and now the Maine law will say no abortion after 15 weeks — you Will it be overruled?” she asked.

“Yes,” LePage said finally.

Abortion has become a key issue for many races this November, polls show Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade Still unpopular.While Republicans generally praised the overturn of the ruling roe, many would rather not focus on the issue until the midterm elections. But after the senator, avoiding the topic has become more difficult for Republican candidates. Lindsey O. Graham (RS.C.) introduced a bill last month that would have banned abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy nationwide.

Several red states have enacted stricter bans. Abortion is now banned or mostly banned in 15 states, while laws in several other states are on various legal fringes. In August, Indiana passed a near-total abortion ban, the first since roe knocked down.

In August, Kansas voters outright rejected a referendum that would allow state lawmakers to regulate abortion, the first time state voters have decided on such an amendment since the state roe was overthrown. Last month, South Carolina Republicans failed to implement a near-total abortion ban in the state. Planned Parenthood recently announced that it plans to spend a record $50 million nationwide in November to elect supporters of abortion rights, believing that abortion will help support Democratic voters.

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