Category Archives: Abortion Care

Why we need Title X, Abortion Care & Maine Family Planning:

The Title X Family Funding Program gives federal funds to centers—including Maine Family Planning!—that provide services such as contraception, cancer screenings, STD testing, and much more. Enacted in 1970, it was designed to provide quality family planning care to low-income or uninsured persons who may not be able to afford it on their own. With funding from Title X, they can get the care they need at little to no cost. In 2013, it was estimated that
Title X-funded centers served 4.6 million clients nationwide (Guttmacher Institute 2015).

In 2014, approximately 20,000 Maine women received contraceptive services and supplies from
Title-X funded programs (Frost et al. 2016). Without funding from Title X, it’s likely that these women may not have received the contraceptive care they needed. Using contraceptive methods
such as birth control can have benefits in addition to preventing pregnancy such as regulating periods, preventing menstrual migraines, reducing acne, and relieving symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). So don’t let people fool you—there are MANY reasons to start using a contraceptive method beyond pregnancy prevention, and contraception services aren’t the only
services provided by Maine Family Planning and other Title X-funded centers.

Due to the Hyde Amendment (FMI HERE), no federal funds can be used for abortion services.  Maine is also a state where Mainecare coverage does not include abortion care.  Maine Family Planning believes that abortion care is a KEY piece of women’s health.

There are bound to be some people in your life saying they do not support a woman’s right to choose unless she has been sexually assaulted or if she will be harmed bringing a pregnancy to term. Often, people view abortion as a last resort, something that should only be considered when there’s nothing else to do. This creates the feeling of taboo, shedding a negative light on those who receive abortion care. Abortion shouldn’t be considered a last resort; it should simply be viewed as another option.

Everyone should have equal access to abortion care, no matter the reason for seeking abortion care, whether it’s sexual assault, harm to the mother, not wanting a child, not being able to afford another child, or any reason at all. The decision is valid; the choice resides with the person who’s pregnant, period.

Some of those people in your life who don’t support abortion may be participating in 40 Days for Life: a group that pickets at Maine Family Planning’s Augusta office every year. Consider fighting back—against them and the stigma surrounding a woman’s right to choose—by participating in our Pledge-A-Picketer campaign HERE.

Maine Family Planning also provides physical exams, pap smears, breast exams, transgender health care, and immunizations! Title X-funded family planning centers are essential for low-income or uninsured women—and men!—who may not be able to afford these services otherwise. It’s not just abortion and birth control; it’s so, so much more.

This is a guest post by Adam, one of Maine Family Planning’s student interns.  Adam is pursuing a degree in creative writing. When he’s not writing for class or for Maine Family Planning’s blog, he’s petting cats.

Sources:
Contraceptive Needs and Services, 2014 Update, Frost JJ, Frohwirth L and Zolna MR, 2016.
< https://www.guttmacher.org/report/contraceptive-needs-and-services-2014-update >

The Role of Reproductive Freedom in Ending Domestic Violence

The right to determine what happens to our own physical selves has everything to do with our safety and wellbeing.  Attacks bodily autonomy are central to the issue of domestic violence. The behavior of those who commit domestic abuse is rooted in the belief  that they have the right to make decisions about every facet of their partners’ lives, including their bodies.

Survivors tell us that their abusers, using a wide range of coercive tactics, dictate what they wear, when and what they eat, where they go, who they see, when they sleep, and whether they can hold their children in their arms. They tell us they are not allowed to say “no” to sex, and when they do they are assaulted. They tell us they are grabbed, touched, hit, kicked, stroked and held in ways they do not want, and which they are unable to repel. In short, abusive people systematically work to strip survivors of their autonomy and their ability to make choices for themselves without risk of retribution.

Often, abusers focus on their partners’ reproductive health as a means of maintaining control over their partners’ lives. This is called reproductive coercion, and it particularly—though not exclusively—impacts women, for whom a pregnancy can make the difference between breaking free of and being connected to their abusers forever, through shared parenting if not through the relationship.

Women tell us about preparing to end the relationship, having painstakingly put together plans for starting over—a place to go, some income, childcare and transportation—when they realize they are pregnant. Maybe he tampered with her pills, or maybe he poked holes in the condoms, or maybe he raped her. No matter the tactic, with a new baby all of those carefully laid plans are often rendered unworkable. Some women tell us that this happened to them more than once: “It’s like he always knew, just when I was getting ready to go.”

Others tell us about how their abusers kept them from ending a pregnancy, sometimes physically keeping them from going to a clinic for an abortion, sometimes showing behavior change that lasted only until the baby was born. And still others tell us about how their partners supported them, even encouraged them, to get an abortion—and then later used the knowledge of the procedure as a weapon, blackmailing and shaming them with it. Abusers are often perfectly willing to capitalize on the social stigma associated with abortion, as doing so allows them to isolate their partners even further.

Reproductive freedom matters for survivors of domestic violence. It matters because it is an essential part of safety planning around reproductive coercion. It matters because the ability to become pregnant leaves women vulnerable to abusers in a very specific set of ways, and women need to be able to manage that vulnerability in whatever way works best for them.

Reproductive freedom also matters because the belief that anyone other than a woman herself has the right to control what happens to her body is a key part of the culture than condones abuse in the first place. At the core, it is an abuser’s belief that his rights take precedence over hers that drives his behavior, and his belief has been culturally supported for millennia, in laws that treated women and children as property and gave men the final say over their lives.

In just one example, it was only in 1985 that raping one’s spouse was finally outlawed in Maine. Before that, our laws maintained that a husband’s right to his wife’s body was absolute; that once she was married, she had given up her right to choose when and if to engage in sexual activity. But by 1985, our understanding had evolved. We saw that women have the right to decide for ourselves what happens to our bodies—and that right must be recognized and upheld under the law.

The same understanding needs to be applied to our discussions around reproductive freedom.

Access to a full range of reproductive health care, including abortion, not only helps survivors counteract the abusive tactics used by their partners, but it sends a message of accountability to abusers, as well. Because a culture that insists that only a woman can decide what happens to her body is one that will be able to stand beside survivors and affirm, “Your body is yours, and no one else’s, and we will support you in keeping it that way.”

Used with permission by MCEDv and also appeared on the MCEDV Voices Blog March 7, 2017

What is a community organizer and why does MFP have one?

Maine Family Planning would like to welcome guest blogger (and co worker) Cait:

I’m Cait, and I’m lucky enough to be Maine Family Planning’s new community organizer. I’ve been organizing with the statewide Health Care is a Human Right campaign for the past four years, and I’m very excited to bring my passion for human rights, reproductive justice, and a deep love of Maine people to my role at MFP.

One thing I get asked a lot is: What does a community organizer do? A lot of things! Here are a few that are very important:

  • Build people power. The overarching goal of community organizing is to put ordinary people in touch with their own power by learning about our rights, joining with others to analyze problems we face, and working collectively to advance solutions. Some solutions are policy-oriented, and to that end, I will build bridges between Maine people and what’s developing in Augusta and Washington, DC. My hope is to make sure that you know who represents you at the state house and in congress, and how to communicate with elected officials about the reproductive rights and justice issues that matter to you.
    Other problems we face around reproductive rights and justice are less concrete and more cultural—such as abortion stigma, ageist ideas on young people’s sexual and reproductive lives, or stigmatizing responses to addiction. In approaching these deeply embedded attitudes, we can build power through public education efforts and campaigns that tackle stigma; creating welcoming forums where communities share stories and build relationships; and other diverse, localized initiatives that bring people out of isolation and into contact with new information and ideas.
  • Listen. One of the most important things I’ll do in this role is ask questions & listen to the stories of clinic patients and providers, students, young people, parents, grandparents, and anybody willing to share with me. Organizing’s power stems from an unshakable belief that our lived experiences provide the best raw material for policy and social changes that truly meet our needs and dignify us. Your insights about your community or school, and experiences accessing reproductive care, will guide the work we do together.
  • Share. My hope is to foster a grassroots network of volunteers across Maine who want to get trained up to lead and grow local efforts to advance reproductive health, rights & justice in their towns. This means hanging out with me a fair amount at first, so I can share all the stuff I know about organizing, community work, and all the important things MFP does. Developing leadership in others is the best thing I can do; basically, a good organizer makes more organizers!
  • Turn strangers into neighbors. I love Maine and its people with all my heart, and I know how much the majority of us care about our neighbors. We’re the kind of folks who are a funny mix of proud and humble, and we show up for each other, even if we do it quietly. As an organizer, I go out into the world with a goal to help folks expand our sense of who counts as a neighbor. I want to engage new people every day in honest conversations and creative actions until we truly embrace the notion that every person in this state is our neighbor. We need to look out for each other and defend everyone’s right to lead lives of health, autonomy, and dignity.

I’m so grateful to be on board with all the dedicated clinic workers and practitioners, administrators, advocates, and educators at Maine Family Planning. I can’t wait to see what we’re able to accomplish when y’all out there join us! Contact me at cvaughan @ mainefamilypanning.org or 207-480-3518 to get started.

In like a lion…

Spring has sprung here at Maine Family Planning and with that, the annual 40 Days for Life anti-choice demonstration outside of our gates.  For 40 days, staff, visitors, and clients must drive through a gauntlet of ugly protesters outside.

I am new here in my third month at this organization.  I have learned about the wonderful work we do – operating 18 health sites across Maine’s rural landscape, serving over 21,000 patients per year for all of their various needs from birth control to STD tests to Pap smears to early detection services.  I have also met the many women and men who work diligently to help these patients and the broader community.

Each week during non-Lenten time, I have been faced with protesters outside our gate and I am driven to think about the women coming in for the exact services they are protesting.  I wonder about the thoughts that these women must have coming into their visits – relief, fear, grief, pain – in addition to the stigma they feel.

At Maine Family Planning, we collect “share your truth” cards from our patients and one struck me: “People think you are heartless because you have an abortion, but it is the complete opposite.  My heart and my brain made the decision to wait to bring a child into this world.”  She adds that she doesn’t feel like a failure because, “a house, a husband, who will father my child.  Without those things I would feel like a failure of a parent.”

Another patient writes, “Your office was helpful in the most meaningful of ways, although hard emotionally and physically, I am glad I made this decision.  It saved my family; now we can focus on us again.”

From the strength of these women, I find the strength to face 40 Days for Life because honestly, that is exactly what we are providing.  A life for Maine women and families, and for that I am so proud.

~Victoria
Director of Marketing and Communications, Maine Family Planning

Click here for more information on Pledge-A-Picketer and how you can support Maine Family Planning patients and staff.

Join Us Tomorrow and #BeBold!

bebold-logoNo one should have their decision about abortion, pregnancy, and family made for them because they can’t afford medical care. Despite the fact that the Constitution is meant to protect everyone, politicians have used the Hyde Amendment to deny abortion coverage for those struggling to get by for 40 years.

This week is United for Abortion Coverage Week of Action – the week we come together to demand that politicians stop excluding the most vulnerable—including low-income people, women of color, young people, immigrants, transgender and gender non-conforming people—from abortion coverage.

On Friday, September 30, join us and put your best face forward for abortion rights in our Be Bold Photo booth in Portland and Bangor!

Be Bold Photo booth

Friday, Sept. 30

11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Portland: Monument Square

Bangor: West Market Square

Can’t join us in person in Portland or Bangor? No problem. Join us virtually from wherever you are: simply upload your selfie to social media using the hashtags #BeBoldEndHyde and #BeBoldME.

You can also add a lime green #BeBoldEndHyde filter to your profile picture on Facebook or Twitter to show your support.

It’s been 40 years since Rep. Henry Hyde introduced an amendment to increase barriers to accessing abortion care. That’s 40 years politicians have been interfering with women’s ability to make the decisions that are best for themselves and their families.

It’s time to get rid of the Hyde Amendment. On Friday, join thousands of people around the country who are united for abortion access. Share your photo and tell politicians: Be Bold, End Hyde.

See you there!

BREAKING: Supreme Court Strikes Down Texas Abortion Restrictions

The Supreme Court’s decision today is the biggest victory for abortion rights in a generation

This morning, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a highly anticipated decision on Whole Women’s Health vs. Hellerstedt–undeniably the most significant abortion case before the court in decades.

The case centers on a deceptive TRAP law (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) that has succeeded in shutting down 75% of the abortion clinics in Texas. These laws place onerous, medically unnecessary, and ultimately, impossible admitting privilege and surgical center requirements on abortion clinics (but not on other outpatient clinics providing similar or even riskier procedures).

In today’s 5-3 decision, the Court held that the requirements of the Texas law do nothing to protect the health and safety of those seeking first trimester abortions, and “place a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, constitute an undue burden on abortion access, and thus violate the constitution.” Plainly stated: the court overturned the restrictive law, stating that the burden placed on those seeking abortion is so significant that it violates their constitutional right to abortion.   Continue reading

There Has To Be Room for Stories Like Mine

The following interview was conducted with a Maine woman who has had a medication abortion. She remains anonymous in order to protect her privacy and safety.

Why do you feel it’s important to share your story?

I want to do my part to de-stigmatize abortion while using my story to help expand access and options for reproductive health care here in Maine.

When I looked around for sympathetic abortion stories, all I could find were narratives about people who chose to get abortions because they were survivors of incest and sexual assault, or they were teenagers living in extreme poverty. I understand why some organizations lift up these kinds of narratives. They underscore the profound human rights abuses that occur when people are denied the right to abortion care and provide a powerful counter-point to right-wing arguments that anti-choice laws protect women and girls. I think that these stories are important and need to be heard.

choose when and if

However, these stories do not reflect my own experience. When I got pregnant I was 29-years-old, in a loving partnership, and was using birth control. Neither my partner nor I had a job at the time, and our financial situation did play a role in my decision to terminate my pregnancy. But it was just one factor, and it could have been overcome. When it came down to it, I just didn’t want a child at that time. I thought I might want one in the future, but it was not the right moment. I have long believed that there is nothing wrong with abortion and that people should get to choose when and if they have kids.  Continue reading

Trump’s comments aside, we already punish women who seek abortions

This piece originally appeared in the Bangor Daily News on April 4, 2016. 

Last week, Donald Trump stated that there should be some kind of punishment for women who have abortions. We saw a heartening and swift response from friends, colleagues, leaders and the media: Trump’s comments were outrageous and infuriating.

We’re glad people are angry about Trump’s comments about abortion. We hope people will continue to push back against any attempts to punish people who have abortions, provide abortions, or simply consider abortion. It’s important to recognize, however, that Trump simply said out loud what opponents of abortion have believed for years, what Ted Cruz has voted for and what John Kasich has enacted.

Since 2011, states have passed nearly 300 laws restricting abortion, passing 57 in the past year alone. In states like Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana, abortion has been so severely restricted it may as well be illegal for a large number of women.

Let’s be clear: Those who exercise their constitutionally protected right to seek, access and provide abortion are already being punished, and any efforts to restrict or ban abortion are attempts — either overt or veiled — to punish women who seek abortion.  Continue reading

Everything You Need To Know About the Most Important Abortion Case in a Generation

If you’re like me, your social media has been filled with posts about Wednesday’s Supreme Court hearing on Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the challenge of a Texas law that has shut down most of Texas’s abortion providers.

The sheer amount of information and analysis can be overwhelming, so instead of adding to the information overload, we thought we’d share some of our favorite links about the case and what it means for abortion rights in Maine and around the country.

Want to get up to speed on what Whole Women’s Health is about and what it could mean?

This video sums it up.

Why do we need to increase safety regulations for abortions? Are abortions risky?

This article from ThinkProgress runs down the facts.

Want to know what’s at stake?

Here’s a story about what it might mean for abortion access in Maine.

And here’s some national context (click for detailed view):

HB2 infographic

So, how did things go during the Supreme Court’s hearing?

Well, the Supreme Court doesn’t allow cameras to record their proceedings (Crazy, huh?), but an audio recording should be released tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s a great summary of the highlights of the oral arguments. (We might be a little biased. Go, RBG!)

Like you, MFP will be looking forward to the Court’s decision on this major abortion case, which will likely be issued in June. Once the decision is issued, we’ll have a lot to say about what it means for Maine and the country.  Check back here for MFP’s perspective!

 ~ Kate Brogan, VP of Public Affairs

A Huge Leap Forward: Expanding Access to Abortion in Maine

Across the United States, reproductive health clinics are struggling to keep their doors open in the face of state-imposed restrictions, provider shortages, and hostile anti-choice environments. Since 2011, 162 clinics have closed, while only 21 new centers have opened.

As of today, things look different in Maine.

Maine Family Planning is increasing access to medication abortion in underserved and rural communities through the use of telemedicine technology. Patients who would otherwise have to drive long distances to access services in Bangor, Augusta, or Portland may now be able to access care at an additional 16 Maine Family Planning centers.

With this expansion, Maine joins Iowa and Minnesota as one of only three states where abortion services are known to be available via telemedicine.** Despite its relative rarity, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has formally recognized that telemedicine “can help to bring this safe, effective method of reproductive care to the women who need it.” This hasn’t stopped 18 states from enacting bans on the use of telemedicine for medication abortion.

The right to abortion is meaningless if you can’t get to the clinic.  Continue reading