‘Dangerous and chilling:’ Maine advocates decry Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe / by Evan Popp

Photo: Sen. Susan Collins meets with Justice Brett Kavanaugh ahead of his confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. | Zach Gibson, Getty Images

In a decision by a conservative majority largely appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote, the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday struck down Roe v. Wade, invalidating the constitutional protection to an abortion in a decision that immediately puts reproductive rights at risk in 26 Republican-led states.

The ruling was 6-3, with conservative justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett upholding a Mississippi law that would prevent most abortions after 15 weeks while also outright overturning the 1973 Roe decision that enshrined abortion rights into law. Chief Justice John Roberts filed a separate opinion concurring in the judgment to uphold the Mississippi statute. 

Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, Barrett, Roberts and Alito were all appointed by presidents who originally won the White House despite losing the popular vote. 

The court’s three liberals, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, issued a blistering dissent of the radical conservative court’s opinion. “With sorrow — for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection — we dissent,” Breyer wrote. 

The ruling comes after a draft opinion leaked in May showed a majority of justices were prepared to overturn abortion rights enshrined in Roe v. Wade. That draft opinion generated outrage, but the ultimate outcome of the case remained unchanged. 

‘A fundamental assault on women’s rights’ 

Abortion rights in many conservative-led states are likely to be immediately curbed following the decision. 

In Maine, though, lawmakers have codified abortion into state law, meaning it is still legal following the ruling. However, the entire state legislature and the Blaine House are up for grabs in November’s election and the Maine Republican Party and GOP gubernatorial nominee Paul LePage are hostile to abortion rights, putting reproductive health care at risk if the former governor and a Republican majority are elected in November. 

Current Democratic Gov. Janet Mills is a supporter of abortion and decried the Supreme Court ruling in a statement Friday. 

“This decision is a fundamental assault on women’s rights and on reproductive freedom that will do nothing to stop abortion. In fact, it will only make abortion less safe and jeopardize the lives of women across the nation,” Mills said. “In Maine, I will defend the right to reproductive health care with everything I have, and I pledge to the people of Maine that, so long as I am governor, my veto pen will stand in the way of any effort to undermine, rollback, or outright eliminate the right to safe and legal abortion in Maine.”

Others around the state also condemned the court’s ruling. 

“By overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court has now officially given politicians permission to control what we do with our bodies, deciding that we can no longer be trusted to determine the course for our own lives,” said Nicole Clegg, vice president of public affairs at Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund. “This dangerous and chilling decision will have devastating consequences across the country, forcing people to travel hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles for care or remain pregnant.”

Clegg emphasized that abortion is still legal in Maine but noted the threat that LePage and Republicans in the state pose to reproductive health rights. She added that despite the actions of a reactionary Supreme Court, support for legal abortion remains strong around the country, with about 80% of people in favor.

Those in need of abortion-related health care can go to ppnne.org or call Planned Parenthood of Northern New England at 1-866-476-1321 to book an appointment, Clegg said.

In response the decision, Clegg said the group is organizing a march tonight at 5:15 p.m. in support of abortion rights. The rally will start at Lincoln Park in Portland and continue to City Hall, where there will be speakers. In addition, Maine’s three abortion providers — Planned Parenthood, Maine Family Planning and the Mabel Wadsworth Center — will be holding an online forum June 25 at 6:30 p.m. to provide an opportunity for community members to respond to the ruling. 

“The impacts of this decision will fall hardest on people who already face discriminatory obstacles to health care — particularly Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, people with disabilities, people in rural areas, young people, undocumented people, and those having difficulty making ends meet,” a spokesperson for Maine Family Planning wrote in an email.  

“The right to abortion should be protected at the national level and not left to the states. But with this decision, Maine people must lift their voices together and declare emphatically that we will not be rolling back rights here in Maine,” the organization added. 

Others around the state also weighed in on the decision, with the ACLU of Maine calling the ruling shameful and emphasizing the need to safeguard the right to an abortion in the state. Maine Democratic Socialists of America criticized the ruling as well and wrote on Twitter that the group will be holding a rally at Portland’s Monument Square at 2 p.m. on June 26, where people can hear from “abortion recipients, providers, and organizers, connect with attendees and form networks of support and action.” 

Collins under fire after ruling

Following the decision, advocates directed ire at Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who purports to support abortion rights but has helped block attempts to codify reproductive health care into law in the face of the Supreme Court case challenging Roe

Collins also famously cast a pivotal vote in favor of Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault and who many feared would rule against abortion rights. In defending her vote for Kavanaugh, Collins repeatedly claimed that the judge — along with Gorsuch, who she also voted to confirm — would respect precedent set by Roe v. Wade and not vote to overturn it. On Friday, however, Kavanaugh and Gorsuch both voted to strip the constitutional protection to an abortion. 

When the draft opinion was leaked in May, advocates expressed frustration that they had repeatedly warned Collins about what voting for Kavanaugh and Gorsuch would mean for abortion rights. “Susan Collins told American women to trust her to protect Roe. She lied,” read the headline of one opinion piece published by the Daily Beast.  

Following Friday’s ruling, Collins told reporters that the decision was “inconsistent with what Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh said in their testimony and their meetings with me, where they both were insistent on the importance of supporting long-standing precedents that the country has relied upon.” The Maine Republican added that the court’s ruling overturning abortion “is a sudden and radical jolt to the country that will lead to political chaos, anger, and a further loss of confidence in our government.”

However, the group Mainers for Accountable Leadership argued that by voting for Kavanaugh and Gorsuch after reproductive health advocates begged her to oppose them, Collins chose a path that helped lead to Friday’s decision. 

“Senator Collins, the overturning of Roe and Casey is your legacy,” the group tweeted. “While you call yourself a trailblazing woman you have used that power to take away a woman’s bodily autonomy. That’s enabling patriarchal and misogynistic systems. We will never forget.” 

The Maine Democratic Party also criticized the senator, arguing that Collins’ vote for Kavanaugh and “other virulently anti-choice justices” in part paved the way for abortion rights to be overturned.  

Others in the state’s congressional delegation weighed in on Friday’s ruling as well. U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree called the decision catastrophic and said it represents “the culmination of a decades-long effort by Republican extremists to install anti-choice justices on a high court that routinely overrules Congress and the public’s will with impunity.” 

In his statement, Sen. Angus King said the decision was “infuriating” but “unfortunately not a surprise.” He said the goal of overturning abortion rights through the Supreme Court was made explicit by Trump and was a large reason for why — in contrast with Collins — he voted against confirming Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. 

“This ruling goes against the wishes of the majority of Americans, and lays a terrifying groundwork for this court to unravel many other hard-earned civil rights in the years ahead,” King said. 

Evan Popp studied journalism at Ithaca College and interned at the Progressive magazine, ThinkProgress and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He then worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper before joining Beacon. Evan can be reached at evan(at)mainebeacon.com.

Maine Beacon, June 24, 2022, https://mainebeacon.com/

Opinion: QAnon conspiracist Christiane Northrup jumps into GOP primaries / Andy O’Brien

Photo: Second District candidate Liz Caruso and Dr. Christiane Northup and the Maine Republican convention. 

QAnon influencer and best selling author Christiane Northrup of Yarmouth has turned her sights to the federal and local primary and general elections this year in effort to unleash an “army of angels” to vote for political candidates who sign on to an agenda rooted in apocalyptic conspiracy theories. 

In 2021, Northrup co-founded the group Maine Stands Up, an organization focused on eliminating vaccine mandates and public health measures. For the past year, she and her group have been carrying on a campaign to organize a reactionary movement uniting crunchy back-to-the-landers and New Age wellness types with Christian dominionists, far-right militias and Republican politicians. It’s a campaign that is already yielding results. 

Recently, the organization announced that former Governor Paul LePage and Republican congressional candidates Ed Thelander and Liz Caruso are among the 50 candidates who have signed on to MSU’s “The People’s Platform.”

While it’s easy to write off Northrup and her followers as a bunch of fringe kooks, the organization has sprouted numerous chapters all over the state, from Aroostook County to Kittery, to elect candidates that align with their hateful ideology. As we enter election season, we need to understand who these people are and work hard to prevent them from gaining political power.

At a church in Augusta this past February, the celebrity doctor delivered an unhinged sermon drawing on Christian Nationalist ideology and far-right conspiracies. She repeated misinformation about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and the supposed dangers of vaccines. Using pseudo populist rhetoric, she spun dark tales about the “Great Reset” conspiracy — a paranoid and contradictory belief that a secret cabal of left-wing Marxists and billionaires with the World Economic Forum created the COVID-19 pandemic as part of a plot to install an authoritarian one-world government run by powerful capitalists and socialists. Northrup blames the current housing crisis on the shadowy left-wing capitalist oligarchy and claims that a representative from the World Economic Forum “came down from Davos” to ask a friend in Owls Head if the organization could rent all of her short term rentals for “illegal immigrants.”

“Don’t do it,” Northrup instructs the audience. “Don’t sell your house to one of these people!”

She invokes a version of the right-wing  “UN Agenda 21 conspiracy” that the World Economic Forum’s “15-minute communities” plan — to reorganize urban space around work, home, community and amenities — is actually a nefarious plot to pack people into “little stacking boxes” and brand them with QR codes to track their every move. Someone from the audience shouts out that a recent state law to reform zoning laws to allow for more residential housing is a part of the Davos conspiracy.

Northrup rails against phantom “deep state infiltrators” in our midst and asks Republican House candidate Guy Lebida of Bowdoin, who is in the pews, to “get all of the photos of the World Economic Forum people in Maine” and put them in his conservative newspaper. On the Maine Stand Up website, the organization targets members of the “Portland Global Shapers Hub” — an initiative of the World Economic Forum “to engage young people in solving communal problems” — as the shock troops trained to carry out the “Great Reset” and “end our civil liberties and medical freedoms.”

Northrup goes on to compare public health protections to slavery, quoting a Black friend who says Black Lives Matter “is a crime against humanity.” After she calls on the churchgoers to use their “spiritual authority and through Jesus Christ” to “take down the demonic” in Augusta, she pauses to gleefully tell an anecdote that the governor’s security team won’t let her go into the atrium of the Blaine House because there are too many windows and they are concerned about her safety. This draws boisterous laughter from the audience.

In contrast to demonic globalists, Northrup says, the conservative movement is actually a spiritual path rooted in love. That’s why, she tells the flock, we must “fix bayonets” like Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, unleash the army of angels and vote out the “demons.” She doesn’t just disagree with her liberal and left political opponents, she calls them “cockroaches” and a “regressive species,” to exuberant applause. Then building to a crescendo, Northrup launches into an apocalyptic sermon.

“I want a tidal wave… billions of them starting with the coast of Maine…. taking down the demonic starting with Augusta and all of the woke people and all of the Klaus Schwabbies on the coast of Maine,” she said, referring to the executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, “take them out and send them back to hell where they came from and bar them from ever returning as the tidal wave goes out from Maine, as Maine goes, so goes the planet and we go all the way across the planet to California.”

Yoga teachers, wellness gurus and Christian nationalists

Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, Northrup — a former obstetrician-gynecologist, a women’s health guru and frequent Oprah guest — has drifted further and further to the right, using increasingly violent and dehumanizing rhetoric to target her opponents. She delivers her rambling daily communiques to thousands of followers on social media in a calm and soothing manner, but her sweet, touchy-feely demeanor belies a message that is full of hatred, rage and fear.

Over the past year, Northrup has traveled all over the state speaking at a variety of venues, from local Republican committee meetings and evangelical churches to more crunchy, bohemian events including a booze cruise, the “Soul-Stice Showcase” and a “Healing Arts Fair.” She has appeared alongside anti-Semitic QAnon influencers, anti-LGBTQ activists, a far-right sovereign citizen sheriff, anti-immigrant activists, Christian nationalists and Republican anti-vaccine legislators like Reps. Heidi Sampson of Alfred, Tracy Quint (Hodgton), Shelley Rudnicki (Fairfield) and Laurel Libby (Auburn).

At a water fast retreat, Northrup sent “blessings” to her fellow “patriots” who stormed the Capitol on January 6th. She is scheduled to speak alongside QAnon influencer and National Security Adviser to former President Donald Trump Michael Flynn at the “ReAwaken America” megachurch tour, which aims to spread Christian nationalism and fake election fraud conspiracies.

Some of her followers — which include yoga teachers, homeschoolers, alternative health entrepreneurs, wellness obsessed fitness buffs and homesteaders — were once liberal leaning, but have since become radicalized by the pandemic and vaccine mandates. Now, many have fully bought into Q-adjacent conspiracies that cast progressives, racial justice activists, medical professionals, scientists, the media and Democratic politicians as willing participants in a global conspiracy to control, subjugate and even wipe out God-fearing white Christians.

Northrup, like many of her right-wing comrades, has repeatedly alluded to a final showdown between the “light workers” and the “demons.” In a recent video with cancer-denial activist Jeff Witzeman overdubbed with a soft slide guitar, she rhetorically asks, “Do I get to pick the firing squad to kill these demons?”

She continues: “If you were a New Age person and you read books like ‘You Cannot Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought,’ you would be afraid that that thought is going to somehow lead you to ‘oh, oh, oh – cancel, cancel, cancel, I had a bad thought, I wanted to harm that person.’ No. I like those thoughts. I listen to Zev Zelenko say, ‘I am all for love and forgiveness and if anyone comes near my children, I will have no problem putting a bullet in their head.’ I want people to own that part of themselves because that is righteous anger. It is a cause of health.”

LePage and other Republican candidates back extremist agenda

Former governor and Republican candidate Paul LePage reads over the Maine Stands Up “People’s Platform” at the Maine GOP convention in April 2022.

At the Maine Republican Convention in April, Maine Stands Up member Katlin Hilton reported that she was able to convince LePage, First District Congressional candidate Thelander and Second District Congressional candidate Caruso to sign the Maine Stands Up “People’s Platform.”  LePage first asked for a slight language adjustment around the food sovereignty provision.

“The next day I went back and showed Governor LePage that we took what he said to heart and made the change,” wrote Hilton on the organization’s website. “Without me asking, he said he would now sign it! So I gave him the pen and the rest is history!”

Unfortunately, Maine Stands Up has not released the platform and would not respond to messages seeking a copy, but Hilton wrote that she and her husband developed it with a group of “republicans [sic], Christian’s [sic], alternative media sources, legislators, and house representatives.”

Maine Stands Up has also endorsed Republican anti-vaccine activist Brogan Teel of Brunswick for State Senate District 23 and Caruso in her Republican primary against former Congressman Bruce Poliquin. On its website, the organization called Caruso “a fearless advocate for medical freedom,” having worked on the failed people’s veto referendum campaign to repeal a law requiring public school students to receive their childhood vaccines. While Caruso has been considered a long shot candidate, she has received strong grassroots support for her hard right politics and there’s evidence Poliquin is getting nervous. 

In her speech at the Maine GOP convention, Caruso pledged to stand “strong against the liberal intellectual elite” and alluded to the Great Reset conspiracy as she railed against President Joe Biden’s desire to participate in the World Economic Forum with the “globalists,” which is a dog whistle to imply they are Jews. She described the Democratic president as a kind of Manchurian candidate — an enemy who is “tearing apart America from the inside,” undermining American sovereignty, “eroding national pride,” destroying the U.S. currency, “culturally deconstructing our society,” and “creating confusion as to what it is to have American values or to be an American.”

“It’s a battle of God and freedom versus evil and tyranny,” Caruso continued, “where a globalist regime and treasonous administration is usurping the government from its citizens, causing civilizational chaos, a crisis at every turn and weaponizing agencies and unelected bureaucrats from the citizens they were to serve.”

Caruso pledged to the audience that she would “fight hard to end big tech censorship and overtly biased press.” In recent interview on Newscenter’s 207 following the mass murder of Black shoppers and workers at the hands of a white supremacist gunman in Buffalo, New York, Caruso said she doesn’t “believe we have a problem with white supremacists just because [the Neo Nazi terrorist] was white” — despite the fact that his message clearly explained racism was his motive.

There is a word for a hyper-nationalist, anti-immigrant, authoritarian movement that promises to “end” a free press and presents its enemies as subhuman “cockroaches” who need to be destroyed before they destroy the nation. It’s called fascism. 

We’ll find out soon enough whether Caruso is successful next Tuesday, but in the meantime Northrup’s neofascist group is holding regular meetings across the state in Yarmouth, Kittery, Portland, Union, Unity, Brunswick, Farmington, Lincolnville, Auburn, Belfast, Kennebunk, the Caribou/Presque Isle area, Owl’s Head, Ellsworth, Saco, Greenville, Harrison, and Augusta. Everyone who is concerned about the fascist threat to our fellow humans and our democracy, needs to do their part to prevent these people from winning in November.

Andy O’Brien is the communications director for the Maine AFL-CIO, a statewide federation of 160 local unions representing 40,000 workers. However, his opinions are his own and don’t represent the views of his employer. He is also a member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445.

Maine Beacon, June 6, 2022, https://mainebeacon.com/

Opinion: The Maine GOP doesn’t care about the lives of trans kids / by Ethan Strimling

Photo: A chalk drawing of the Transgender Pride Flag | MaineTransNet

In case you missed the news last week, the GOP ran one of the most disgusting culture-war ads we have seen in Maine in decades. In a shameless attempt to damage Democratic incumbent Gov. Janet Mills, the Maine Republican Party attacks an elementary school teacher for creating a lesson plan on LGBTQ history, struggles, and acceptance. 

The writing lesson, titled “Freedom Holidays,” is framed around holidays celebrating the freedoms of different groups of Americans: July 4th, freedom from Britain; Junteenth, freedom from enslavement; Women’s Equality Day celebrating the passage of the 19th Amendment. 

The teacher, Kailina Mills, then describes the people behind the acronym LGBTQ. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual. When she gets to “Transgender,” she explains how some people discover that the gender a doctor gave them at birth may not feel right later in life. She teaches about how LGBTQ Americans were legally discriminated against throughout much of our history and then, on June 26, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court said that people of the same gender could love and marry whomever they choose. She finishes by assigning the students an essay to write about three LGBTQ activists of their choosing who led the fight for equal rights.

The teacher, in describing why she created the lesson plan, cited a 2020 study that found that gender identity is established by first grade. She said, “Those children and those families deserve to be represented in their school curriculum. Public schools are for everyone and should, therefore, include everyone.” 

The Maine GOP, on the other hand, calls this writing lesson about tolerance and acceptance, “radical” and “wrong for our kids.” They have put thousands of dollars behind their ad shaming the teacher and driving families with LGBTQ kids and their parents back into the closet. 

That same study found that almost all trans people, by first grade, dealt with significant stress around being a different gender than they were prescribed. Eighty-two percent of those questioning their gender consider suicide. Forty percent percent try. Too many are successful.

Shaming teachers from discussing LGBTQ issues and driving trans families into the shadows means more may try to kill themselves.

All so the Maine GOP can raise money and fire up their base in their campaign for the governorship.

Sadly, it must be noted that Governor Mills’ response to the attack was cowardly. Instead of standing up to the bigotry and showing Maine people she will defend our most vulnerable, she caved and voiced support for taking the lesson plan down. 

That said, there is a difference between being a coward in the face of a bully, and being the bully. Especially a bully who is putting the lives of our youth in danger.

Not only do all of Maine’s children deserve to be included in our curriculum, it is literally a matter of life and death. And right now the Maine GOP has chosen death. 

Ethan Strimling served ten years as Mayor and State Senator for Portland, Maine.

Maine Beacon, May 24, 2022, https://mainebeacon.com/