The Other Side of the Picket Line

Last spring, I unexpectedly lost a pregnancy at the end of my first trimester. Seven months later, the week before Christmas, I miscarried again. In addition to the physical and emotional burden of the second loss, I also experienced a significant financial one: after deductibles and co-payments, it cost my single-income family nearly $3,000, including the D&C – known in another context as an abortion.

After discovering I was pregnant again in February, I scarcely had time to develop a response before it became clear that it wasn’t going to be a viable pregnancy. This time, my first call wasn’t to my midwife – it was to Maine Family Planning.

Some miscarriages resolve naturally, but others require medical intervention, and that, I had discovered, can come at great expense.

WOMAN-DRIVING

I had no hesitation about calling MFP. As a queer-identified woman in a heterosexual primary relationship, I’ve gratefully accessed affordable and judgement-free services from family planning agencies for many years. I did have one very serious reservation, however: I knew that going to MFP in March would mean driving through the gauntlet of 40 Days of Life, the annual anti-choice demonstration outside their gates. And I had to think hard about whether I could face a third devastating loss, this time more affordably, but accompanied by public shaming from an assembly of my Maine neighbors.

People accessing abortion care may be feeling grief, like me. They may be feeling fear, or regret, or relief – like me. No one seeks these services without some mix of these emotions, and likely many more, but few people drive through without a deep feeling that it is what they must do. And not one of us deserves to have the emotions surrounding that experience compounded by the uncompassionate judgement of strangers. Continue reading

It’s Time: We Need You to Show Up for Reproductive Rights.

Have you been feeling frustrated by the way our political system is attacking access to reproductive health care? Still mad about the Hobby Lobby decision? Still smarting about the election?

Want to do something about it?

Maine Family Planning has been working for five years to make Medicaid-funded family planning services available to low-income Mainers who are uninsured, but who would become eligible for Medicaid-funded care if they become pregnant. Low income women are more than five times more likely to experience unintended pregnancies than women with higher incomes, primarily because they don’t have access to high-quality contraceptive care.

Uninsured Mainers with low incomes who become pregnant are eligible for pregnancy-related health care covered by Medicaid, but we don’t provide these same people with the tools to avoid unintended pregnancy. The result of this policy decision is low-income Mainers facing pregnancies they may not be prepared for, and a state Medicaid program that pays for lots of unintended pregnancies. By helping people plan their pregnancies, we can give them more opportunity for education and economic security, support healthy, prosperous families, and save millions of taxpayer dollars.

This is a bill we should all support, right?  We need your help explaining this to Maine’s legislature.

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Sending a Message

During the 40 days of Lent (and every Thursday all year long), Maine Family Planning’s headquarters in Augusta is picketed by protesters who post signs along the street leading to our building. These signs contain lies, display graphic images, and convey messages intended to frighten and shame our patients and staff.

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As part of our 2015 Pledge-A-Picketer campaign, we asked donors and supporters to tell us what their signs would express—and we’ve received some incredibly supportive, honest, and creative signs! While the picketers stand outside with dishonest, judgmental signs meant to shame and control, our supporters are sending a message in the lobby of our health center.

Some of our favorites:

“Thanks to all for your commitment to the health of Maine women and girls.” – Lois

“Thanks for your courageous work in keeping women healthy and giving us CHOICES.”  –Claire

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A Voice That Resonates

As the end of February approaches, it’s 14 degrees below zero outside, the sun is shining, and the annual onslaught of daily picketers (in honor of Lent) are keeping warm in their cars across from our Augusta Health Center. Before their strategic retreat into warm cars, however, they did manage to pound their deceptive and degrading signs into the frozen snow banks on either side of our driveway.

Here is what one Augusta Health Center visitor wrote about her experience in her recent letter to the editor of the Portland Press Herald:

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Harassing Maine Family Planning clients is hateful

I recently visited Maine Family Planning [in Augusta], where protesters have gathered on the occasion of Lent to picket. They littered the side of the street with vulgar and provocative signs aimed at shaming those coming and going.

Whatever position you take on the issue of abortion and reproductive rights, it was clear to me that these people have hate in their hearts that is antithetical to the Christian beliefs they claim to espouse.

As an ethical issue, which I believe it is, this is an issue that merits conversation. But Maine Family Planning is a medical facility that provides information and health care to women and families that may not otherwise have it. Standing outside and harassing patients and staff as they come and go is hateful (and a little immature), and it is certainly not a valid Christian response.

When a person or group acts in ways to bully, condemn and humiliate, they undermine their ability to speak on moral issues with any legitimacy. Furthermore, I fail to recognize the connection between these demonstrations and the Christian season of Lent.

Lent is a time of introspection when Christians engage in prayer and self-denial in repentance and preparation leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. It is not a time for these types of  antics, and it is certainly not a time for nailing others to a cross. Shame on them.

Maria Elmshauser, Gardiner, ME

I do not know Ms. Elmshauser. I am very grateful to her, however, for her articulate and eloquent voice, a voice that resonates with every patient, staff member, and visitor to our building, especially during these 40 days. I hope that it resonates with you, too.

Your support makes a difference for us and the nearly 24,000 Mainers we serve, enabling Maine Family Planning to, as Ms. Elmshauser states, “provide information and health care to women and families that may not otherwise have it.” 

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

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President, Maine Family Planning Board of Directors

P.S. If you already have supported Maine Family Planning this fiscal year, thank you! If not, please consider following one of these links:

What Would Your Sign Express?

Maine Family Planning’s 2015 Pledge-A-Picketer Campaign 

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From February 18 to March 29, Maine Family Planning’s headquarters in Augusta will be picketed every day by protesters with dishonest messages and graphic images on signs intended to frighten and shame our patients and staff. These protesters oppose the right of Mainers to control their own sexual health and reproductive lives.

Please support our patients and staff by making a pledge based on the number of protesters we count (for instance, 10¢ per picketer), or by making a one-time gift to our Pledge-A-Picketer campaign. You can make a per-picketer pledge here, make a one-time gift online, or mail your check to:

Maine Family Planning
Pledge-A-Picketer
PO Box 587
Augusta, ME 04332-0587

Tell us what YOUR sign would say. Continue reading

On Our Radar: (Another) Parental Consent Bill in Maine

During the upcoming 2015 legislative session, the Maine Legislature will consider LD 83, a bill that would require minors (under 18) and adults under guardianship to get the written consent of a parent or legal guardian in order to obtain an abortion. If this feels like a  rerun, that’s because it is–legislators defeated a version of the bill in 2013 and 2011, in part because it’s so out of touch with the way real Maine families work.

Maine already has an adult involvement law, and it works. For over 25 years, Maine’s adult involvement law has encouraged family involvement in a teen’s decision to seek abortion, while providing young people with the guidance and support necessary to evaluate all of the options available. The current law is a bipartisan success story–the result of a compromise between republicans and democrats, backed by organizations that support abortion rights and those that oppose them. Our state’s adult involvement law stands as a national model because it works– it truly protects and respects the health, safety, and dignity of young people.  Continue reading

What Are You Waiting For? Get Covered!

woman with laptop and papersOpen enrollment in affordable health plans began on November 15th, and as of January 23rd, almost 63,000 Mainers have enrolled in a health insurance plan. This open enrollment period– a window where almost anyone without health insurance can sign up– ends on February 15th. Why wait any longer? There are only two weeks left, and Maine Family Planning is here to help even if you’ve waited until the last minute.

Need convincing? Here are a few reasons why you (or someone you love) should enroll before February 15th.  Continue reading

May We Suggest a New Year’s Revolution?

It’s January, which means it’s New Year’s Resolution season. Maybe you resolved to take good care of your health, to give back to your community, or to save more money.  Because taking care of ourselves can be a political act (as Audre Lorde reminded us), might we suggest you make a New Year’s Revolution, instead?

Whether or not your resolution feels revolutionary, there’s something nice about a new year and a fresh start– and it’s especially satisfying to know you’ve done something kind for yourself (we can help!). Continue reading

Here’s Lookin’ At You, 2014.

For many people, the New Year is a time to take stock of the past year: a time to measure how far we’ve come, to learn from the challenges we’ve faced, and to make resolutions for the year ahead. 2014 was a pretty eventful year for Maine Family Planning specifically and for reproductive rights generally. So before the ball drops, let’s toast to a year of showing up for reproductive rights and sexual health—and resolve to continue working towards reproductive justice for all.  Continue reading

Getting Covered: Six Things We Want You To Know.

Outreach & Enrollment for blogThe Health Insurance Marketplace is now open, and Maine Family Planning is here to help you navigate your options. With two Certified Application Counselors (CACs) traveling to our Augusta, Bangor, Belfast, and Lewiston Family Planning sites, finding and enrolling in a plan is easier than ever. Whether you’re enrolling for the first time or simply renewing your current plan, we can help guide you through the process.

While we can make it easier for you to find an affordable plan, we know that there’s still a lot of confusing information out there about health insurance. To help break things down, we’ve put together a list of the top six things we think everyone needs to know—so read up, share with friends and family (and then give us a call)!

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On The Front Lines