Patty Wright: Newly blue Maine expands access to abortion

The Maine State House, designed by    Charles Bulfinch   , and built 1829–1832. Bullfinch also designed the famous Massachusetts State House, with its iconic gold dome.

The Maine State House, designed by Charles Bulfinch, and built 1829–1832. Bullfinch also designed the famous Massachusetts State House, with its iconic gold dome.

Via Kaiser Health News

While abortion bans in Republican-led states dominated headlines in recent weeks, a handful of other states have expanded abortion access. Maine joined those ranks in June with two new laws ― one requires all insurance and Medicaid to cover the procedure and the other allows physician assistants and nurses with advanced training to perform it.

With these laws, Maine joins New York, Illinois, Rhode Island and Vermont as states that are trying to shore up the right to abortion in advance of an expected U.S. Supreme Court challenge. What sets Maine apart is how recently Democrats have taken power in the state.

“Elections matter,” said Nicole Clegg of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. Since the 2018 elections, Maine has its largest contingent of female lawmakers, with 71 women serving in both chambers. “We saw an overwhelming majority of elected officials who support reproductive rights and access to reproductive health care.”

The dramatic political change also saw Maine elect its first female governor, Janet Mills, a Democrat who took over from Paul LePage, a Tea Party stalwart who served two terms. LePage had blocked Medicaid expansion in the state even after voters approved it in a referendum.

Clegg and other supporters of abortion rights hailed the new abortion legislation: “It will be the single most important event since Roe versus Wadein the state of Maine.”

Taken together, the intent of the two laws is to make it easier for women to afford and to find abortion care in the largely rural state.

Nurse practitioners like Julie Jenkins, who works in a small coastal town, said that increasing the number of abortion providers will make it easier for patients who now have to travel long distances in Maine to have a doctor perform the procedure.

“Five hours to get to a provider and back ― that’s not unheard of,” Jenkins said.

Physician assistants and nurses with advanced training will be able to perform a surgical form of the procedure known as an aspiration abortion. These clinicians already are allowed to use the same technique in other circumstances, such as when a woman has a miscarriage.

Maine’s other new law, set to be implemented early next year, requires all insurance plans ― including Medicaid ― to cover abortions. Kate Brogan of Maine Family Planning said it’s a workaround for a U.S. law known as the Hyde Amendment that prohibits federal funding for abortions except to save the life of the woman, or if the pregnancy arises from incest or rape.

“[Hyde] is a policy decision that we think coerces women into continuing pregnancies that they don’t want to continue,” Brogan said. “Because if you continue your pregnancy, Medicaid will cover it. But if you want to end your pregnancy, you have to come up with the money [to pay for an abortion].”

State dollars will now fund abortions under Maine’s Medicaid, which is funded by both state and federal tax dollars.

Though the bill passed in the Democratic-controlled legislature, it faced staunch opposition from Republicans during floor debates including Sen. Lisa Keim.

“Maine people should not be forced to have their hard-earned tax dollars [used] to take the life of a living pre-born child,” said Keim.

Instead, Keim argued, abortions for low-income women should be funded by supporters who wish to donate money; otherwise, the religious convictions of abortion opponents are at risk. “Our decision today cannot be to strip the religious liberty of Maine people through taxation,” Keim said during the debate.

Rep. Beth O’Connor, a Republican who says she personally opposes abortion but believes women should have a choice, said she had safety concerns about letting clinicians who are not doctors provide abortions.

“I think this is very risky, and I think it puts the woman’s health at risk,” O’Connor said.

In contrast, advanced practice clinicians say the legislation, which will take effect in September, said this law merely allows them to operate to the full scope of their expertise and expands access to important health care. The measure has the backing of physician groups like the Maine Medical Association.

Just as red-state laws restricting abortion are being challenged, so are Maine’s new laws. Days after Maine’s law on Medicaid abortion passed, organizations that oppose abortion rights announced they’re mounting an effort to put the issue on the ballot for a people’s veto.

This story is part of a partnership that includes Maine Public Radio, NPR and Kaiser Health News. Patty Wright is a reporter at Maine Public Radio.

Don Pesci: The moral deracination of the West

Members of  Bound4LIFE  in  Washington, D.C. , symbolically cover their mouths with red tape in anti-abortion demonstration.

Members of Bound4LIFE in Washington, D.C., symbolically cover their mouths with red tape in anti-abortion demonstration.

Leftists are winning the culture war, the war on Western Civilization, because rootless politicians have shown themselves unwilling to enter the lists and do battle with the new morality.

For this reason, American culture is being redefined – reinvented, as the leftists would have it – by social anarchists with knives in their brains. It has become fashionable among New York leftist politicians to wink at, and even to publicly celebrate, infanticide. No assault on traditional sensibilities, it would seem, is beyond the pale.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s notion that third trimester abortion is too close to infanticide to be tolerated by men and women of conscience is now regarded as embarrassingly quaint by New York’s smart set, among whom are Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, not his birth name.

Moynihan was a sociologist, the author of “The Moynihan Report,” a professor at Harvard University, a top adviser to President Nixon, and a four-term U.S. senator representing New York. He was also a proud liberal. Today, it is very nearly a philological sin to call the new moralists “liberal” in the sense in which liberalism had been embraced by Moynihan or, here in Connecticut, by such prominent governors as Abraham Ribicoff and Ella Grasso.

In Europe, the moral deracination – which, of course, marches under the banner of moral rectitude – has proceeded at an alarming rate. The Netherlands in 2005 stole a march on other morally backward-looking states by becoming the first country to decriminalize euthanasia for infants with presumed “hopeless prognosis and intractable pain. “ Nine years later, Belgium amended its 2002 Euthanasia Act to extend the rights of euthanasia to minors.

People living in the United Sates have always fancied that, though conjoined historically to Europe by history and ties of affection, there was an ocean separating us. Modern communications have removed this cultural prophylactic. Historical differences also have served as a barrier to disruptive ideas that in Europe plunged France into a bloody revolution centered on fatal utopian ideas.

Under Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin – socialists all – fascism and the totalist state were necessary and indispensable political instruments in creating what all three thought of as “the new man,” a mechanist free at last of a Western culture that had imprisoned humankind in religious and cultural chains. In a future shaped by mechanistic ideology, politics and brute force, the very nature of man would be irreversibly altered. This is, as Roger Scruton points out in his brief and indispensable history of the conservative movement in the Western world, Conservativism: an Invitation to the Great Tradition, the original sin of socialism, the absurd notion that the world may be made over anew by a transcendent state. For Mussolini, the fascist administrative state was a secular god clothed in omnipotence and omnipresence. “Everything in the state; nothing outside the state; nothing above the state” – such was the fascist definition of social bliss.

History, tradition, subsidiary political organizations such as family and church, a constitutional state, a media determined to declare the truth at all costs, modesty in politics, the good manners of polite society, respect for women, personal honor, the protections a state holds out to “the least among us” -- the infirm, the aged, the poor, victims of unfettered abortion – all these blessings were, in effect, walls and barriers that prevented a false god, the omnipotent and omnipresent state, from clawing away from us our God-given rights and responsibilities with its mechanical, inhuman talons.

U.S. Sen. Dick Blumenthal, for two decades Connecticut’s attorney general/regulator-in-chief, regards any limitation of abortion, however practical or reasonable, as proceeding from immoral premises, and he continues to insist falsely that regulations concerning third trimester abortion deprive women of a right to unfettered abortion. Limiting abortion to the first two trimesters of a pregnancy does not remove a presumed right to abortion; it simply designates the time frame in which an abortion may be legally appropriate.

At the end of May, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz sent a missive to women who own businesses in Alabama, Georgia and Missouri pronouncing themselves “appalled at… actions that erode the ability of women to make informed decisions about their health and bodies” and inviting women who own businesses in such states “to relocate your operations to a state that supports the rights of women and whose actions and laws are unwavering in support of tolerance and inclusivity.” The carefully constructed sales pitch does not once mention the word “abortion.”

Indeed, any discussion of unregulated abortion on demand, at any time for any reason, is delicately dropped from the polite conversations of the political new moralists. But the euphemisms – “informed decisions” about “health and bodies” – serve to cinch the point without discomforting women, also concerned about their health and the bodies of their unborn children, whose birth decisions may have been informed by the prevalence of ultra-sound images that show late term fetuses bearing a striking resemblance to newly born children, Moynihan’s enduring point.

The new moralists have not yet raised abortion to the level of a new secular sacrament, but the Orwellian letter from Connecticut’s governor and lieutenant governor suggest that the state’s discarded motto “Still Revolutionary” may in the near future be replaced by a new sales pitch to states considering relocation – “Connecticut: The Abortion State.”

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based columnist.

Chris Powell: Abortion measure assumes that women are stupid


Judging from the dishonorable and irresponsible men by whom they become pregnant, many women in Connecticut are not very smart. But are they really so stupid that they need more than a minute to distinguish an abortion clinic from a "crisis pregnancy center" that opposes abortion?

That is the presumption of legislation causing controversy in the General Assembly, as it has done in other states, to punish anti-abortion shops for deceptive advertising. Abortion advocates accuse the anti-abortion shops of posing as abortion clinics to lure pregnant women and dissuade them from having abortions. The anti-abortion shops and their supporters deny deceiving anyone, but the anti-abortion shops and the abortion clinics are in brutal competition with each other.

Connecticut's Unfair Trade Practices Act already authorizes the state Department of Consumer Protection to sue businesses that have caused loss to customers through deception, so the proposed legislation might be redundant if what the anti-abortion shops do is construed as trade and commerce. But the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a California law compelling anti-abortion shops to make certain statements to clients is probably an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment.

In any case the proposed legislation in Connecticut is largely a mechanism by which the pro-abortion side aims to intimidate the anti-abortion side and to frighten legislators into striking pro-abortion poses. The claim that a woman's visit to an anti-abortion shop may critically delay her access to medical treatment is hardly persuasive when, if she is seeking an abortion, all she has to do is ask if the shop will provide or facilitate one.

The proposed legislation is part of the political left's larger campaign against freedom of speech generally. But the more the left practices intimidation here, the less it may persuade the country that there is nothing questionable about abortion, not even abortion of late-term, viable fetuses and infanticide. Indeed, the Democratic Party, the party of the left, is already giving the impression that it considers abortion the highest social good.

This is crazy fanaticism.


Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont's open letter to the state, published last week, was a welcome preface to his budget proposal, due this week. But it invited questions.

The governor called attention to the problem of "fixed costs" -- pension, salary, and other commitments set by law and contract that already consume more than half the state budget. Saving the state will require unfixing them, returning them to the democratic process. Will the governor have the courage to propose that?

The governor also suggested repeal of some sales-tax exemptions. Altogether sales-tax exemptions cost state government an estimated $3 billion every year. But while fairness might argue for repeal of some exemptions, any expansion of the sales tax would remove more money from the private economy unless the overall tax rate is reduced. So fairness alone here will not be cause for celebration.

In remarks to business leaders, the governor said that he would propose sharply curtailing state government's bonding, restricting it to necessities. Indeed, for many years the bonding package has been the political pork barrel, with both parties feasting on inessentials to buy votes.

Only the details of the governor's budget will establish where he aims to take Connecticut. But in his campaign he promised change, and change can mean only restraint.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

Chris Powell: Abortion and the Kavanaugh-Ford hysteria

Christine Blasey Ford in her appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Christine Blasey Ford in her appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee.


According to Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's primary accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, has no reason to lie by claiming that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her 36 or so years ago when they were in high school. But by making her accusation so late -- not just decades after the supposed incident but years after Kavanaugh was nominated as a federal judge and only upon his nomination to the Supreme Court -- Blasey Ford has entered politics, and everyone in politics has reason to lie or exaggerate.

Of course, this doesn't mean that Blasey Ford is lying or exaggerating. Any accusation of sexual misbehavior against a teenage boy is plausible. This means only that whatever may have happened decades ago did not bother Blasey Ford enough to complain about it until it could be used to stop Kavanaugh's appointment to the Supreme Court. As she is a liberal Democrat while Kavanaugh is a conservative Republican presumed to be skeptical of the court's precedent in the abortion case of Roe v. Wade, Blasey Ford well could be doubly bothered.

This follows the pattern set by Anita Hill's accusation of sexual harassment against Clarence Thomas upon his nomination to the Supreme Court, in 1991. Hill had worked for Thomas at two federal agencies in Washington and followed him from one agency to the other so she could continue working for him even after the supposed harassment began. For years after she left government employment, Hill maintained cordial relations with Thomas, even seeking and receiving help from him. Hill did not complain about Thomas until liberals opposed him for the Supreme Court out of fear that, as a conservative Republican, he would tilt the court against abortion rights.

Of course this didn't make Hill a liar or exaggerator either. But it put her into politics too and thus gave her reason to lie or exaggerate, just as Blasey Ford entered politics by joining the opposition to Kavanaugh only when abortion rights were again in question. Blasey Ford has even said that if Kavanaugh were confirmed she would have to move to New Zealand. Only her politics would require that.

But far from handicapping her, Hill's belated accusation against Thomas made her a celebrity and won her a career as a law professor and liberal heroine. Blasey Ford can expect something similar.

By contrast, Kavanaugh, like Thomas, can expect only to be forever suspected as some sort of sex criminal. Maybe Kavanaugh will deserve it -- as long as the country has resolved that youthful misbehavior can never be forgiven no matter how long ago it happened and that people who haven't grown up by age 17 can never grow up. If so, Connecticut should eliminate secrecy for its juvenile courts and all the probationary gimmicks that erase convictions in adult court.

The hysteria over the accusations against Kavanaugh has destroyed all standards of politics and journalism and is threatening to destroy legal standards. To prevent another conservative vote on the Supreme Court, the most defamatory and unsupported allegations, along with hearsay and rumor, once barred by the old rules of fairness and libel are being sensationally published and broadcast by news organizations in their crazed search for anyone who can disparage the nominee's character as it might have been 36 years ago.

This is being done by institutions that had no trouble excusing the contemporaneous sexual misbehavior in office, of Ted Kennedy, Chris Dodd, and Bill Clinton, all Democrats who, perhaps not surprisingly, were sure that the Bill of Rights covered abortion.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

Chris Powell: Liberals extol precedent when it serves them

U.S. Supreme Court Building.

U.S. Supreme Court Building.

Liberals throughout the country applauded three years ago when, proclaiming that the U.S. Constitution requires states to confer same-sex marriage, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed 44 years of precedent in constitutional law as well as practice going back to the adoption of the Constitution, in 1789. 

Liberals in Connecticut also applauded three years ago when the state Supreme Court ruled capital punishment unconstitutional, thereby reversing the state and federal constitutions themselves, which always have explicitly authorized capital punishment and still do. 

But a few weeks ago liberals criticized the U.S. Supreme Court for reversing its 41-year-old decision holding that government agencies could require their employees to pay dues to unions they didn't want to join. The precedent should have stood, liberals said, because it  was precedent and much policy had grown up around it. 

And now that President Trump's nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court is suspected of inviting a challenge to the abortion rights declared in the court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, liberals -- including Connecticut Democratic Senators.Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy -- again are freaking out about possible disrespect for precedent. But Roe itself also reversed precedent going back to 1789, since prior to Roe abortion law always had been left to the states. 

Of course when it comes to the Supreme Court these days respect for precedent doesn't really concern liberals or conservatives. Their concerns are only policy and power. If precedent gives them policy and power, they support it. If it doesn't, they oppose it. 

With the  court led by Chief Justice Earl Warren Court in the 1950s and '60s liberals began elevating their policy desires to constitutional requirements, since constitutionalizing an issue could push democracy out of the way when it became inconvenient. Now that they are in power nationally, conservatives are playing this game too. 

As a result the country is being led to believe that the Constitution is just anyone's wish list, requiring whatever one likes and prohibiting whatever one dislikes, led to believe that there is no distinction between what the Constitution says and what policy should be. 

But contrary to the suggestion of Connecticut's senators, Gov. Dannel Malloy, and other leading Democrats, there is no danger that the U.S. Supreme Court will criminalize abortion. For the court has no such power. Even if the court reverses Roe, abortion policy would just return to the states and Congress. 

Connecticut generally favors legalizing abortion, at least prior to fetal viability, and so state law permitting abortion likely would be preserved. But state law on abortion goes against  public opinion by letting minors obtain abortions without the consent of their parents or guardians, even as this policy has concealed the rape of minors. Ironically, while waiving parental consent for minors getting abortions, Connecticut law requires it for minors getting tattoos. 

Startling as it might seem in Connecticut, opinion in some states is hostile to abortion and opinion nationally would prohibit late-term abortion, which the Roe decision itself indicated states could do. Further, many legal scholars who support legal abortion acknowledge that, as a matter of law, Roe was mostly judicial contrivance. 

But Democrats seem to think that they can win on this issue only by generating enough hysteria to prevent any honest discussion that recognizes distinctions. 

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

Don Pesci: These progressive Conn. pols are libertarian about two grim things

The Republican plan to abolish and replace Obamacare has now collapsed. After much huffing and puffing, Republicans pulled their replacement plan, such as it was, shook the dirt of medical-care reform from their feet, and vowed to move on to the next big issue -- tax reform. One imagines U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D.-Conn.), who made some frantically intemperate remarks in the House before the Republican replacement plane crashed and burned, was delighted.

 U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D.-Mass.), move over: Mrs. DeLauro has now become the chief progressive maenad of Congress. She brought to her performance suitable demagogic props, a large sign that said “Get Old People,” the words arranged horizontally and the first letter of each word – G-O-P – in fierce bold script. C-Span captured the historic moment here. Mrs. DeLauro was not wearing her pussy hat at the time; so the members of the House were spared that indignity.

Seen from a progressive bubble, Obamacare is a crashing success. It is, in fact, a political success but a real-world wreck from within, and it has been so from the beginning. Obamacare has never been more than a program hardwired to fail that would lead, when it did fail, to universal health care, a nationwide government healthcare program palely imitating European models that would drive many insurance companies -- unable to compete with a tax-supported, progressive driven healthcare system – out of business.

Under a universal healthcare system one fourth of the economy in the United States would move from the private to the public sector, and insurance companies in Connecticut would become boutique providers serving rich people – mostly wealthy Republicans who, in DeLauro’s view, want to Get Old People (GOP). Mrs. DeLauro’s gerrymandered lair is Connecticut’s 1st District, an impregnable progressive fortress; so then, she need not fear that she will be undone politically by championing a lost cause.

And Obamacare is a lost cause. Even in her home state, insurance providers have pulled out of the program with their pants on fire; premiums have skyrocketed across the nation, and the coroner has been sent an e-mail.

The authors of the U.S. Constitution supposed that legislators would be unwilling to pass ruinous laws under which they themselves would suffer. How quaint! Barack Obama himself is now wealthy enough to buy retirement properties worth millions anywhere in the world the chooses to live, in or outside the United States; socialist Bernie Sanders owns three houses; millionaire Connecticut U.S. Sen. Dick Blumenthal had money enough to send his children to expensive private schools that many of Mrs. DeLauro’s constituents could never afford.

Politics has been good for Mrs. DeLauro and her millionaire husband, Stan Greenberg, both of whom own expensive property in the Washington Beltway, where they entertain similarly minded progressives in lavish splendor that might bring a blush to the cheek of the Great Gatsby.

It may strike some hearty rationalists as unseemly that two millionaire politicians who favor partial birth abortion and euthanasia – which clips life it its beginning and end – should profess such a touching concern for old people. Only on questions of life and death are Mrs. DeLauro and Mr. Blumenthal, the Senator from Planned Parenthood, excessively libertarian. Blumenthal, who never met a regulation he didn’t like, would leave Planned Parenthood – which makes most of its profits from abortion – as the only unregulated big business in America.

China still pursues a policy of forced abortion; in that totalitarian country women, liquidated as infants in the womb, are perceived as somehow less valuable than men. International Planned Parenthood has in fact been working hand in hand with the population control program in China, almost since its inception. China joined the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) in 1983.

In December of last year, Women’s Rights Without Frontiers wrote a letter to President Donald Trump calling for “a full-scale investigation of International Planned Parenthood to determine the exact nature of its operations in China… Transparency is demanded by the fact that IPPF receives taxpayer dollars from the United States and other nations as well.  I believe it is impossible to partner so closely with the Chinese Communist Party’s forced abortion machine without being complicit in its atrocities.  This is especially the case when this year we learned that the number of abortions in China is not 13 million, but a staggering 23 million a year.”

What a pity the group did not address its petition to Mrs. DeLauro, defender of the poor and oppressed, or Mr. Blumenthal who, as the Senator from Planned Parenthood, may possibly exercise more leverage with the IPPF than does Mr. Trump and the entire Republican Party which  -- as we all know, thanks to Mrs. DeLauro’s campaign bumper-sticker outburst in the House – wishes to oppress if not euthanize their grandmothers.

Don Pesci (donpesci@att.net) is a political and cultural writer who lives in Vernon, Conn.