(The Center Square) – A bill incorporating such topics as gender changes for minors, abortion and vaccine mandates was introduced to a Maine legislative panel on Friday.
The Maine Judiciary Committee took testimony on Legislative Document 776, a bill proposing an amendment to the state constitution that, as drafted, would provide sweeping protections for bodily autonomy.
Sen. Craig Hickman, D-Kennebec, presented LD776. He spoke of the bill’s intent during a lengthy introduction and exchange with committee members.
“If you don’t have control over your own body, are you truly free?” Hickman said as he presented the basis for the legislation. “Individuals have the right to control what does and does not happen to their bodies.”
Since the bill requires amending the state’s constitution, a two-thirds majority of both branches of the Legislature will have to approve taking the proposal to a ballot referendum to voters for it to take shape as policy.
In his testimony, Hickman said LD776 covers all aspects of personal choice, running the gamut from abortion to vaccines.
“To me, it means total freedom,” Hickman said. “It is, to me, a very timely discussion.”
While he said he was a proponent of the COVID-19 vaccines, Hickman explained why he included it in the bill.
“I don’t believe in forced anything,” he said. “I believe in education over coercion.”
Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Androscoggin, asked Hickman to weigh in on the abortion component of his bill – particularly in late-stage occurrences where a fetus could conceivably live independently, out of the womb, if there were an early pregnancy.
Hickman said he preferred using “individual” versus “person” to delineate who would have protections in the bill. An “individual,” he said, is characterized as a person from birth, on up.
“This is certainly touching on all sorts of policy issues,” Brakey said.
Other committee members delved into some of the complex aspects of a blanket bill for bodily autonomy, including the extent of rights for minors and prisoners.
“I left it very broad, and if the committee believes it’s too broad, there are ways of looking at the scope of the language,” Hickman said.
One resident provided in-person testimony on the bill. The committee has received dozens of written comments for and against the bill.
Jonathan Martell, of Sanford, said he agreed with some of the elements within LD776 but could not support it wholesale as he stepped to the microphone and commented to the committee.
“I’d ask you to see this for what it appears to be and vote, ‘ought not to pass,’” Martell said. “I believe that unborn children should have the same rights to life, whether they are born or not. I don’t want to see this as another way to push abortion even further than it already has.”
LD776 remains in the hands of the Judiciary Committee. A work session on the bill will be held at a later date.