When it comes to sex, there's something ambivalent about Michael Michaud.
No, not that.
I mean Michaud's position on abortion. Or rather his positions, since he has so many, he effectively has none at all.
During his long political career, Michaud, the Democratic congressman from Maine's 2nd District and likely candidate for governor in 2014, has somehow gotten away with completely obscuring his opinion on a woman's right to choose.
It wasn't always that way. There's no question where Michaud stood when he was first elected to the Maine House of Representatives back in 1980, representing East Millinocket and vicinity. He was against abortion. He thought it should be illegal except in cases of rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother. He voted for every bill restricting access to the procedure. When he moved up to the state Senate in 1994, he regularly received glowing ratings for his consistency from conservative organizations like the Maine Right to Life Committee and the Christian Civic League of Maine.
It wasn't until Michaud ran for the US House in 2002 that things got fuzzy. Faced with a stiff challenge from a pro-choice Republican (yes, such creatures once walked the earth, along with other semi-mythical beasts like dinosaurs and professional athletes who didn't take performance enhancing drugs), he started equivocating. He said he wouldn't vote for a constitutional amendment banning the procedure. He made noises that could have been interpreted as opposing federal restrictions (if you were a supporter of legal abortions) or supporting allowing states to regulate pregnancy any way they liked (if you were an opponent). He was just vague enough to get elected.
Now in his sixth term in Congress, Michaud has compiled a record NARAL Pro-Choice America termed "mixed choice." For instance, he opposed a bill that would have stopped Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funds for family planning, but supported a measure that would have made it difficult to obtain abortions under the Affordable Care Act.
In his 2012 re-election campaign, his chief of staff more or less accurately portrayed Michaud as neither pro-life nor pro-choice. In a statement to the MaineToday Media newspapers, Peter Chandler said his boss "has carefully weighed issues related to abortion and family planning."
Which was a help to voters who favor candidates who resolutely refuse to carefully weigh the issues and instead decide what they'll support by analyzing random messages from outer space. The Florida congressional delegation, for instance.
But back to Michaud. Now that Democratic 1st District US Rep. Chellie Pingree has announced she won't run for governor next year, it's increasingly likely the nomination will be Michaud's for the taking, thanks to a poll that shows that of all the prominent Dems who might get into a three-way gubernatorial race, he'd lose by the smallest margin.
Trouble is, Michaud would face two candidates who aren't the least bit equivocal on abortion. Republican Governor Paul LePage is pro-life. Independent Eliot Cutler, in one of his few solid stands, is pro-choice.
If, as seems likely, the US Supreme Court should decide in the near future to overturn Roe v. Wade and rule that regulation of abortion is a matter for states to decide, the position of governor will be crucial in determining the legality and availability of the procedure in Maine. With the Legislature of late swerving wildly from Republican to Democratic control, there's no long-term assurance anti-abortion bills won't pass, leaving only the chief executive's veto as a defense of the rights of Maine women.