BRJC testifies for reproductive rights at Maine State House
May 4, 2023
Members of the Bowdoin Reproductive Justice Coalition (BRJC) traveled to the Maine State House in Augusta on Monday to testify on behalf of LD 1619, a landmark piece of legislation that, if passed, would expand access to late-term abortions.
The BRJC became involved in advocacy for LD 1619 through their partnership with Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights (GRR). Thee GRR, a Bath-based coalition of reproductive justice educators and activists, supported students through the process of learning about the legislation and preparing testimony.
“We met with [the GRR] on Zoom just to hear what their objectives were, and they mentioned that writing testimony and providing it for this hearing was super important,” Kaitlin Weiss ’25, a leader of the BRJC, said. “[They] were incredibly helpful in walking us through what a bunch of the bills said, what they meant [and] why they were important.”
Governor Janet Mills introduced LD 1619, An Act to Improve Maine’s Reproductive Privacy Laws, in early April. Despite Republican opposition, the bill has enough support from Democrats and Independent legislators to pass both the House and the Senate.
Opposition to the bill was tangible at the State House on Monday, as hundreds of anti-abortion activists gathered and gave testimony, compared to only a handful of the bill’s supporters.
“I think sometimes living in the Bowdoin bubble I forget that my beliefs don’t represent all of Maine, and I think, in particular, [with] this bill, people showed up to protest it intentionally understanding that it probably would pass,” Luisa Wolcott-Breen ’25, another leader of the BRJC, said. “It was interesting walking around the building … people would make comments at us because it was very clear what side we were coming from.”
Despite the intimidation of being surrounded by anti-abortion protestors, BRJC members found the experience empowering.
“It was a strange space because we were talking about and advocating for and hearing [testimony] against abortion for three hours,” Wolcott-Breen said. “But also, I was very proud of the people who showed up and who provided testimony and who were there to support the bill.… It was a very empowering space, and also definitely very challenging.”
Abigail Martin ’26, another leader of the BRJC, also felt inspired by the experience.
“It was great … finally being able to directly get your voice out there. It’s just really important,” Martin said. “And I think one of the things that I took away from it was [that] … even if you think that the bill is going to pass, you should still be there in support of the cause.”
Going forward, the BRJC plans to not only continue to advocate for reproductive rights at the legislative level but also to work towards eliminating disparities in access to abortion across the state.
“If LD 1619 passes, … it’s amazing for our group for what we’re looking for in terms of Mainers being able to access abortion care, should they need it or should they seek it out,” Weiss said. “But just because you have the right to have access does not mean you actually have the means for that access…. As a coalition at Bowdoin, we’re sort of trying to bridge that gap and be intentional about that in our advocacy work.”
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