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Christian group reassures supporters that LePage would restrict abortion despite debate stance

Gov. Janet Mills (from left), former Gov. Paul LePage and independent candidate Sam Hunkler at Maine Public's gubernatorial debate on Oct. 4, 2022, in Lewiston, Maine.
Rebecca Conley
Maine Public
Gov. Janet Mills (from left), former Gov. Paul LePage and independent candidate Sam Hunkler at Maine Public's gubernatorial debate on Oct. 4, 2022, in Lewiston, Maine.

One of the state's leading anti-abortion organizations is trying to reassure supporters that former Republican Gov. Paul LePage remains an ally after he said during a debate last week that if elected, he would veto any bill banning access to the procedure after 15 weeks.

Last week's newsletter from the Christian Civic League of Maine essentially makes the same case that Democrats have been making during most of the gubernatorial campaign: that LePage would support abortion restrictions if he defeats Democratic Gov. Janet Mills in November.

But in last week's debate, hosted by Maine Public and the Portland Press Herald, LePage said that he would veto any bill that seeks to change Maine's abortion law, which establishes a fetal viability standard of about 28 weeks.

"So Gov. LePage, if the Legislature came to you and said, 'We want to change Maine's law and instead of viability, which currently stands at 28 weeks, now Maine's law is going to say no abortions after 15 weeks,' would you veto that?" Maine Public debate moderator Jennifer Rooks asked.

"Yes," LePage answered.

LePage's muddled response made national headlines by illustrating the quagmire that GOP candidates face now that public polls suggest abortion restrictions could be a liability in the 2022 midterms.

The Christian Civic League, which considers LePage an ally, wrote in its newsletter that the former governor's answer was "concerning," but it went on to say that a candidate's debate answer doesn't necessarily reflect their position.

"Politicians are notoriously inconsistent especially on this issue," the newsletter read. "Instead, we should keep in mind two things about this gubernatorial race.

"First, we must remember their (LePage and Mills') histories. Both may have sounded the same on the debate stage, but both of them have notably different records. Not only has Paul LePage given us written acknowledgement that he opposes taxpayer funding of abortion, but he has a history of pro-life statements that have been consistent with him and his administration while in office."

The newsletter also noted LePage's history of anti-abortion statements, his responses to the league's candidate questionnaire and the fact that the Maine Republican Party has adopted a firm anti-abortion stance in its platform.

"Janet Mills is a part of a party that publicly supports expanding access to abortion," the newsletter read. "Paul LePage is part of a party that publicly supports restricting access."

In a press release, Maine Democratic Party vice chairwoman Bev Uhlenhake agreed with the Christian Civic League's assessment.

"This may be one of the only times that I am ever going to tell Maine people that they should listen to the Christian Civic League of Maine, because when it comes to Paul LePage, they are right — we all know that he will take away the rights of women in Maine if given the chance."

Journalist Steve Mistler is Maine Public’s chief politics and government correspondent. He is based at the State House.
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