The Portland Phoenix

Politics & Other Mistakes: Campaign sonogram

If ever anybody in Maine needed an abortion, it’s Paul LePage.

Not literally, of course. LePage, the Republican candidate for governor, is a man, and men don’t get pregnant. Even so, some of them, like LePage, believe they should be able to tell people who do get pregnant what they can do with their bodies.

But the abortion LePage needs is for his campaign’s approach to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe versus Wade. His advisors don’t seem to know whether he should pretend reproductive rights aren’t an issue, embrace the right-to-life mantra or try to twist the controversy into something it’s not.

None of these approaches is even close to viability. Any competent spin doctor would recommend aborting now.

When confronted with questions about where he stands on a woman’s right to choose, LePage, a former two-term governor with a long history of opposing abortion, selects his words carefully. At a campaign event in August, he told the Portland Press Herald that legal abortion is “the law in Maine and it’s going to stay the law in Maine. I have no reason to want to take it out.”

Well, here’s a reason. LePage recently filled out a questionnaire from the Christian Education League of Maine. It asked, “Should access to abortion be restricted?” The former governor checked the “yes” box. He also said he’d halt Medicaid-funded abortions for low-income women.

It sure looks like he’s lying to somebody.

In 2018, LePage said he favored nominating state judges who were inclined to end legal abortion. “If they can make a case for getting rid of it,” he said, “let’s do it.” The Democratic Governors Association used that quote to claim in a TV spot that LePage supported outlawing abortions even in cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother. The GOP brain trust rushed out a video of LePage’s daughter, Lauren, arguing her father never said that. Although, she didn’t deny he might have thought it.

Meanwhile, the state Republican machine tried to take the fight to the opposition. It issued press releases that questioned whether Democratic Gov. Janet Mills would allow abortions after 22 to 24 weeks when viability occurs, something Mills has never supported.

Attempting to paint Mills as an extremist is a losing strategy, given her extensive moderate credentials. But the LePage campaign needs some kind of distraction, particularly after the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, the influential gun-rights and hunting organization, issued its election-year report card on the gubernatorial candidates.

SAM gave Mills an “A” rating, citing her opposition to stricter gun-control and her support for protecting threatened wildlife habitat such as deer wintering yards. But LePage got an “incomplete” grade after he refused to answer questions about using state bonds and federal funds to build a new fish hatchery.

Maybe he was afraid the facility would perform fish abortions.

As governor, LePage had earned an “A” ranking from SAM, but the group’s support cooled after he repeatedly blocked funding for the Land for Maine’s Future program by refusing to release voter-approved bond money for purchasing public lands.

The LePage campaign seems to think issues affecting hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation are more difficult to finesse than those involving abortion. His advisors also seem to be under the impression they can gain some traction in the polls (the latest ones have not been favorable, particularly among women voters) if they stir up some controversy over book banning.

LePage has announced his support for a “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” which would allow folks offended by just about anything to interfere in their local educational curriculum. This ignores the fact that in Maine most decisions about what will be taught and what books will be allowed in school libraries are made at the local level by elected school boards. Parents and all other voters already have the last word on those topics. What LePage is proposing actually calls for more state meddling.

The LePage campaign hopes support for book banners will distract some voters from LePage’s attempts to obscure his position on reproductive rights. Because election day is drawing closer, and it may already be too late to abort.

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