Maine Democrat Sara Gideon Killed Bills Outlawing Female Genital Mutilation – Maine Dems argued legislation was racist
Democratic Senate candidate Sara Gideon repeatedly killed bills to outlaw female genital mutilation during her tenure as the speaker of the Maine House of Representatives.
Gideon leveraged her leadership position in the Democrat-controlled legislature to kill two separate bills that would have criminalized the practice of severing the clitoris of infant girls and sewing their vaginas shut. Instead, the Democrat supported a different law that would have funnelled $150,000 to her political allies to educate Mainers about the practice instead of criminalizing it, according to a former state legislator who spearheaded the push to stop the mutilation.
Under Gideon’s leadership, Maine Democrats argued that the bill was racist toward the state’s large immigrant community from Somalia, a country where the practice is “nearly universal” according to the United Nations. The Democrats also argued that the practice rarely takes place in Maine and is already outlawed by existing federal and local laws.
Gideon’s efforts have helped make Maine one of only 12 states that have not banned female genital mutilation. Such a legacy threatens to complicate her cultivated image as a champion of women’s rights, one built on her consistent support for abortion access and the #MeToo movement. The image strategy has paid off, translating into hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations and outside money support from national pro-abortion groups. Gideon did not respond to a request for comment.
F. A. Cole, a survivor of female genital mutilation who testified before the Maine legislature, expressed deep frustration for the bill’s failure. “The Democrats, especially the Speaker of the House Sara Gideon, did everything she could in her power to just kill this bill,” she told the Washington Free Beacon. “I could not understand why.”
Female genital mutilation is an archaic cultural custom practiced in parts of the Middle East and Africa that the United Nations considers a violation of human rights. The procedure, which is done to discourage sex outside of marriage, causes numerous medical problems such as excessive bleeding, infections, difficulty passing urine, and sometimes death. A 2012 Public Health Reports study estimated that more than 500,000 women and girls were at risk for female genital mutilation or its consequences in the United States.
The controversy started in 2017, when Republican state legislator Heather Sirocki introduced a bill that made it a crime for parents to force their child to undergo female genital mutilation. Gideon and other Democrats initially cosponsored the bill, but soon Gideon embraced a different version of the legislation. The new version struck out all penalties for the practice and instead allocated $150,000 from the state coffers to fund educational outreach programs to educate Mainers about female genital mutilation. According to Sirocki, Democrats told her the money would go to the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine, a nonprofit group run by Gideon ally Fatuma Hussein.
“This bill was designed to funnel money to Fatuma Hussein’s Immigrant Resource network so they could educate the Somali community on why, ‘naughty naughty, it’s bad to cut your little girl’s genitals,'” Sirocki said. The nonprofit did not respond to a request for comment.