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The pre-Roe statute prohibited performance of an abortion unless the procedure was “necessary for the preservation of the mother’s life.”1  The statute was repealed in 1979,2 and would not be revived by a decision overruling Roe v. Wade.3  Abortions could be performed for any reason before viability, and for virtually any reason after viability.4


1 Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 51 (West 1964).

2 1979 Me. Laws 513, ch. 405, § 1 (1st Sess.).

3 In 1993, Maine enacted a statement of policy regarding abortion: “It is the public policy of the State that the State not restrict a woman’s exercise of her private decision to terminate a pregnancy before viability except as provided in section 1597-A [transferred to § 1598(A)].”  1993 Me Laws ch. 61, § 2.  No such statement of public policy is required to make abortion legal in any State. In the absence of specific legislation making abortion criminal (either pre- or post-Roe), abortion would remain legal even if Roe v. Wade were overruled.

4 Because of its undefined health exception, Maine’s post-viability statute, see Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 22, § 1598(4) (West 2004), would not effectively prohibit post-viability abortions.  In interpreting the undefined health exception in the pre-Roe District of Columbia abortion statute, the Supreme Court held that “the general usage and modern understanding of the word ‘health’ . . . includes psychological as well as physical well-being.”  United States v. Vuitch, 402 U.S. 62, 72 (1971).  See also Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179, 192 (1973) (in determining whether an abortion is medically necessary, “all factors– physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age–relevant to the well-being of the patient” may be considered).  There would be few, if any, abortions that could not be justified on psychological or emotional grounds.


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May be reprinted without permission but with attribution to the Life Legal Defense Fund.