“I Was Too Embarassed to Tell Anyone” ~ A Story of Reproductive Coercion

Maine Family Planning is committed to healthy sexuality for all people and works closely with domestic violence agencies to help prevent abuse and coercion. This piece was written by a Maine woman who hopes that her story will help other survivors of abuse and the people who support them.

*TRIGGER WARNING*: This post deals with a personal account of relationship abuse and may be triggering to some people.

woman at windowI never thought I would share this story outside a couple very close friends or family, but a perfect storm of events made me feel compelled to get it all out. During the week that would have been my daughter’s second birthday, we threw a baby shower for my sister, and a friend posted an article she wrote about reproductive coercion. I told her what it meant to me, and she encouraged me to share my story with others. Continue reading

In Their Own Words ~ Abortion Care Patients Tell Their Truth

seek-truthEvery year, during the 40 Days protests, we invite our family planning and abortion care patients to counter the lies outside out gates by sharing their own personal truths. This year, we got some powerful comments about the picketers, the Maine Family Planning staff, and the importance of preserving reproductive rights.

Their powerful comments speak for themselves and don’t really need any elaboration.

This week, we share these three with you:

Continue reading

A Brighter, Healthier Future, With the Help of Family Planning

lemons and lemonadeWhen we chose the theme Turning Lemons into Lemonade for our Pledge-a-Picketer campaign this year, we were thinking about the protesters at our gates as the lemons and the support for our services as lemonade. It makes perfect sense and it’s a catchy title.

This week, as I was reading through some of the comments we’ve received from our patients, I was struck by a totally different way that the lemons into lemonade theme can be used in relation to our work.

Reflecting on the stories our patients shared, I realized that when we provide  family planning and abortion care services we are helping the women and families who rely on us to turn the lemons that life presents them into the lemonade of a brighter, healthier future.

I’d like to share two very different patient experiences – in their own words – to illustrate what I mean. Here’s the first one: Continue reading

Exposed ~ The 5 Most Common Lies About Abortion

liesNote: This blog post first ran in March 2013. We are re-posting it because the information is  relevant to our current Pledge-a-Picketer campaign.

We see it all the time, right outside the gates of our Augusta health center.

Anti-choice protesters spend enormous amounts of time and energy spreading lies about abortion care services. At Maine Family Planning, we prefer to focus on the truth — backed up by decades of research in the field.

Here’s the truth about five of the most common lies about abortion. Continue reading

Introducing: The Buzz!

Are you a pro-choice Mainer who is passionate about sexual health and reproductive rights?

Do you like to write, share on social media, and connect with the people around issues that matter to you?

Do you want to help others connect to the services and information they need?

TheBuzz_Honeycomb_Final

We hear from folks all the time, asking how they can help, whether they can volunteer, and offering to support Maine Family Planning in all kinds of ways. We’ve been SO IMPRESSED by and so grateful for the work that our supporters have done. We wanted to find a way to help mobilize, support, and thank those folks working to spread the word about sexual health and reproductive rights in Maine– no matter WHERE they live. Make your voice heard by joining The Buzz, Maine Family Planning’s statewide network of advocates who are committed to spreading the word about sexual health and reproductive rights!

Enter: THE BUZZ.   Continue reading

Protesting Doesn’t Reduce Abortion. Effective Birth Control Does.

This piece originally ran in the Bangor Daily News.

This week marked the start of “40 Days,” an anti-abortion protest that is held all over the United States at this time of year. Every day for about six weeks, patients, visitors and staff of Maine Family Planning in Augusta will pass a gauntlet of protesters at our front gates.

These protesters wave rosaries, sing hymns and pray loudly. They gather near the gates, trying to slow down the cars approaching our parking lot. They make no distinction between patients who are coming in for an annual exam, to pick up their birth control supplies, or to get life-saving breast and cervical health screenings. Worst of all, the protesters will display and carry signs spreading lies about abortions and the women who have them.

Are these protesters interested in knowing the facts surrounding abortion? I suspect not.

Based on what I’ve seen of their tactics in my 25-plus years doing family planning work, they don’t want to hear the truth. However, Bangor Daily News readers deserve better. They deserve to know the real story of abortion in our country and our state. Continue reading

Family Planning in Maine Has a New Look!

The Family Planning Association of Maine is thrilled to announce the launch of our new website, logo and name ~ Maine Family Planning!

We’ve made many changes over the last few years, as we’ve taken on direct management of several family planning health centers and are now operating 18 clinics in 12 counties! We’ve also opened a primary care practice at our Belfast location, and in Downeast Maine, we’re providing families with additional support.

Our new name, Maine Family Planning, better reflects our ongoing efforts to provide innovative, high-quality services amidst a changing healthcare environment. We’re no longer simply an association that oversees the work of other agencies, but a leaner, more responsive organization dedicated to the sexual health and reproductive rights of all Mainers.

Our website has been updated with a fresh look and user-friendly navigation to better connect visitors with the information they are seeking. The site is designed to work seamlessly on mobile phones and tablets ~ so users can find the services and information they need, wherever they happen to be.

We hope our new site will be a helpful resource for you. Here’s what you’ll find:

  • Find a Clinic: Finding a family planning health center is easier than ever.
  • Get Involved: Stay informed by signing up for our Action Alerts.
  • The Buzz: Our exciting new program helps pro-choice Mainers make their voices heard through social media and other online forums.
  • On The Front Lines: Our blog informs, inspires, and gives readers a chance to take a more in-depth look at sexual health and reproductive rights issues.
  • Looking for something specific? Our new website has sections especially for patientseducatorsparents and familiescommunity partners, and donors.
  • Health Topics: you’ll find information on sexual health, birth control, STDs, abortion services, and more ~ because everyone deserves a local resource they can trust.

After you check out our new website, connect with Maine Family Planning on Twitter and Facebook! We want to be your Maine resource for sexual health and reproductive rights information and support.

Please let us know what you think of our new look and website.

We value your feedback!

Teen Dating Violence Awareness: A Community Spotlight Conversation

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, and we are dedicating this month’s Community Spotlight post to this very important topic. To learn more about Teen Dating Violence and how we can all support the young people in our lives, we talked with some of our partners at the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, Safe Voices, and Spruce Run.

What is Teen Dating Violence?

Teen Dating Violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner; tactics may be physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, and/or financial. Each relationship is unique, but in many abusive relationships, behaviors escalate over time and become increasingly dangerous for the victim.

We should also consider what a healthy relationship looks like. Everyone has the right to a relationship where both people are equals and treat each other with respect. Everyone should have a voice in decision-making, as well as friends and interests outside of the relationship. Everyone has the right to physical safety and the right to say “no” to any kind of sexual activity–even if it is something they have done before.

What forms of relationship abuse do teens experience?

Like adults, teens experience a range of abusive behaviors, including:

  • Physical (force used to cause fear/injury)
  • Verbal/ Emotional (isolation, threats, humiliation, insults, guilt)
  • Sexual (rape, coercion, restricting access to or tampering with birth control)
  • Digital (use of tech to intimidate, threaten, or harass)
  • Stalking (following someone, tracking on social media, showing up at work/home)
  • Financial (controlling spending, interfering with work hours or employment)

Are there warning signs or behaviors to watch out for?

It’s concerning if a partner expects you to spend all of your time with them and doesn’t want you hanging out with other people, since isolation is often a tactic of abuse. If the person loses their temper or gets jealous over small things, constantly puts you down, threatens to hurt you or themselves, or pressures you to do things you aren’t comfortable with, those are also red flags.

Text and online harassment is really common; if someone is constantly demanding to know where you are and what you’re doing, and gets angry if you don’t respond immediately, it’s a big warning sign.

The use of online and digital media to control and abuse someone is relatively new to many of us. Can you talk about this type of abuse?

Digital Dating Abuse is the use of technologies such as texting and social networking to bully, harass, stalk, or intimidate a partner, and a surprising number of  young people report experiencing digital abuse.

The challenging and scary thing about digital abuse is how quickly it’s evolving and how simple it is for the abuser to do. Because young people today are so accessible to their dating partners, it’s important to educate teens about maintaining healthy relationship boundaries both off and online.

Are there any resources you’d recommend for young people or adults who want to support them?

A lot of teens don’t think about calling a helpline, but it’s a fantastic resource that’s free, confidential, and available 24/7. Helplines are not only for people experiencing abuse– you can call if you want to know how to help a friend, your child, or a student. MCEDV’s helpline can connect callers to local centers: 1.866.834.HELP.

There are also a lot of great websites out there. Love Is Respect and Break the Cycle both have a lot of information, interactive quizzes, and resources to help teens. That’s Not Cool deals specifically with digital abuse.

Family Planning clinics offer caring, confidential services, and we do all we can to support our patients’ health and safety regardless of age and relationship status. For patients experiencing abuse, supporting them fully often means connecting them with a local domestic violence organization.

Community Spotlights highlight the FPA’s partnerships with other organizations. These partnerships are crucial to the care our patients receive, and help increase access to reproductive health services in Maine.

Meet Don ~ A Family Planning Staff Profile

Four days a week, Don Leighton is the voice on the phone and the welcoming face at the front desk of the FPA’s administrative offices in Augusta. He’s also responsible for keeping patients and staff safe while visiting and working here.

Earlier this month, I chatted with Don for a bit and learned some really interesting things about him. Like the fact that for much of his career, he was holding down a full-time job and operating a greenhouse business with his wife.

Don Leighton, the voice & face of the front desk in Augusta

What did you do for work before you came to the FPA?

Well, I joined the Coast Guard while I was in high school and I did that for eight years. I was on the Hallowell police department for three years and then I spent twenty-four years as a surgical aide at the Togus VA hospital. I also spent some time as a policeman with the VA security service.

I tried retirement, but that didn’t last very long. I went back into security, working for a private firm. That’s when I started working here; that was in 1998. I’ve always taken care of people. This job melds everything I’ve been doing all my life.

What was security like when you started here? Continue reading

Increasing Medicaid Coverage for Women is Good for Families

The following piece ran in the Lewiston Sun Journal on Sunday. We share it here for anyone who may have missed it.

At a rally in January, Gov. Paul LePage stated that outlawing abortion is the solution to Maine’s declining population. Apparently, he believes that forcing women to have children they are not prepared to parent is key to a prosperous future.

This is an interesting approach, considering the many ways LePage has made it harder for low-income women to get the help they may need to raise their children – ending Medicaid eligibility for more than 14,000 low-income parents, setting time limits for TANF, cutting General Assistance funding, and vetoing an increase in the minimum wage.

Gov. LePage’s policies have made this state a much more difficult place for poor women to raise their children.

When women are forced to have children they are not emotionally or financially prepared to raise, the negative effects multiply through the years, both for families and for Maine. Poverty, hunger and the resultant unhealthy family settings have lifelong repercussions for a child’s health and his or her ability to learn and thrive. Families who have children resulting from unintended pregnancy are far more likely to rely on Medicaid and other social supports, at great cost to our taxpayers.

Most Mainers agree that it is best for everyone when babies are born into healthy, stable families that are ready and able to give them what they need. How do we do this? Continue reading

On The Front Lines