“Safeguards” or roadblocks to faster suicides? Lobbyists played both sides in Maine & Oregon legislation

In her statement on signing the Maine bill, Governor Mills also stressed that similar laws were in place Oregon, California, Colorado, Vermont, Washington, Hawaii and Washington, D.C.

Those safeguards were a key component of the argument made by advocates of the new law when winning the narrowest of votes in the Maine Legislature. The final vote on L.D. 1313 enacted the law in the Maine House by a vote of 73-72.

During the first House debate on May 28th, Rep. Patty Hymanson said that the data from other states including Oregon showed that the, “safeguards in the bill work as intended” and Hymanson said there had been “no slippery slope in laws.”

With a vote of the entire House on the line, Hymanson did draw attention to the fifteen-day waiting period as one of the bill’s “safeguards” in order to win the votes for the bill’s passage. That testimony from Hymanson came nearly two months after Compassion and Choices had declared a fifteen-day mandated waiting period “discriminatory” in Oregon.

Hymanson’s floor testimony was a nearly verbatim rendition of her written committee until the point where she mentioned the waiting period. That speech kicked off a floor debate in the Maine House that led to initial passage of her bill by just four votes. It would go on to lose some support in the intervening days, passing on final enactment by a single vote.

Despite Rep. Hymanson’s claim, the timeline of what has happened in Oregon and the approach taken by advocates in Maine appear to reinforce “slippery slope” concerns from opponents of the new law.

They worry that the legislation is simply a first step to get the procedure into law and that advocates will then turn and work to erode the safeguards they highlighted to get the initial law approved.

The Maine law is currently subject to an effort to repeal it via referendum, called a People’s Veto in Maine. Supporters of repeal have until September 18th to submit more than 64,000 signatures of registered Maine voters to put a repeal question out to voters next year.

If the law stands, advocates could follow the same tact they have taken in Oregon. That could mean pushing for removal of the fifteen-day waiting period and other safeguards they have already deemed “roadblocks” in Oregon and nationally even though they originally supported them as a part of winning initial passage in Maine.

Given that they have already begun the process to erode the safeguards in Oregon law, it is likely that the issue will become a central issue in the Maine Legislature again in the future.

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