Category Archives: Abortion Care

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

Shame free, Blame free, Empowering: notes from our supporters

signs 6It’s one thing to see signs containing lies, displaying graphic images, and conveying messages intended to frighten our patients and staff once a week, but it’s another thing to be berated by it every day. As strong proponents of reproductive healthcare and a woman’s right to make decisions about her life and her body, we have learned to tune out the messages of hate and anger. The problem is that no matter how strong your resolve, no one can tune it out entirely.

provider support 2To counter the picketers’ dishonest, judgmental signs meant to shame our staff and patients, we like to remind ourselves of all the good that comes from the work being done at our health centers. Reading about the experiences of our patients strengthens our resolve to stand strong in the face of opposition. Hearing why our supporters get involved reminds us that we are not facing the hatred of our opponents alone–and neither are our patients.

We’ve asked donors and supporters to tell us why they stand together with Maine Family Planning, and we’ve received some incredibly supportive messages. We think of these when we see the protesters signs and we remember that there is strength in numbers.

Here are some of our favorites: Continue reading

43 Years Later: Reclaiming Roe for All

This piece was written by  Andrea Irwin, George A. Hill and Meagan Gallagher and originally ran in the Bangor Daily News on January 21, 2016. 

We lead three nonprofit, publicly accessible health care providers who provide comprehensive reproductive and sexual health care for men and women across the state. Together, we serve more than 21,500 Mainers per year. More than half of them are low income.

Among the comprehensive pregnancy-related care we provide is abortion. Like the rest of our services, abortion is a safe, legal medical procedure. Unlike the rest of our services, abortion has been singled out by politicians for exclusion from MaineCare coverage. While MaineCare will pay for all pregnancy-related care for women who choose to carry a pregnancy to term, it withholds coverage from eligible women who decide to have an abortion.

That means MaineCare-eligible women who decide abortion is the best thing for them and their families must pay for the procedure out of pocket. As providers, we know firsthand that one of the greatest challenges for women seeking care is financial.  Continue reading

Standing Up for Equal Access to Abortion

In 1977, the Hyde Amendment barred the use of federal funds to pay for most abortions. While states are free to use their own funds to cover abortion, Maine does not. As a result, MaineCare covers pregnancy-related care for women who choose to carry a pregnancy to term, but withholds coverage from eligible women who decide to have an abortion. The result is a significant coverage gap for those insured by MaineCare.

affordable abortion RJ poster

Image courtesy of Repeal Hyde Art Project

Maine Family Planning believes that every person–regardless of income –should be able to make the decisions that are best for their health and their family. That’s why today we joined with the American Civil Liberties Union, Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center, and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England in filing a lawsuit challenging Maine’s prohibition of MaineCare coverage for abortion care. We are proud to take this step toward ensuring fair and equal health care access for all Mainers.

The Legal Landscape in Maine

Although Maine public policy expressly prohibits restricting a woman’s “exercise of her private decision to terminate a pregnancy,” and Maine’s Constitution guarantees that all people have the right to pursue liberty, safety, and equality, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services has been withholding insurance coverage for abortion for decades.

At its core, the prohibition on abortion coverage is discriminatory. Continue reading

Attacks on Abortion Rights Come to Maine. Are You Ready to Fight Back?

We’ve all seen state legislatures across the country fielding unreasonable attacks on the right to abortion and attempts to limit access to abortion. Well, now it’s our turn. Next week, Maine’s legislature will begin its review of two bills that would limit access to abortion services:  Continue reading

Thank you.

During the 40 days of Lent each year, anti-choice protesters descend on Maine Family Planning’s Augusta headquarters to spew lies, judgment, hate, and to intimidate our patients and staff. These picketers can not understand the lives of those who enter our gates, yet they show up daily to harass patients, despite the fact that protesting does not change the minds of people who know what’s best for themselves and their families.

In an attempt to make lemons out of lemonade (and to show our patients and staff that they are supported by many of their neighbors), Maine Family Planning runs a Pledge-A-Picketer fundraising campaign during these same 40 days. This year, we raised about half as much as we typically do; the Christian Civic League of Maine claimed that their prayers were responsible for defunding abortion and family planning.

But that wasn’t the end. Over the past week, Mike Tipping, Dan Savage, and advocates all over the world stepped up to speak out against the CCL’s harassment and bigotry.

Since the CCL’s claim of righteous victory, we’ve received almost $24,000 from over 720 new donors in six countries and 45 states (pushing our total over $29,000).

Many of you stepped up and donated, despite not knowing Maine Family Planning or the work we do. Perhaps you heard about our effort from  Dan Savage, Mike Tipping, Think Progress, Raw Story, Wonkette, Daily Kos, or our supporters on social media. Despite the fact that many of you don’t know us, you’ve made it clear that you trust family planning clinics to provide reproductive care, and that you trust women, men, teens, and trans* people to make the decisions that are right for themselves and their families.

The work we do is important. We provide confidential reproductive health care that people can afford, including birth control, pap smears, breast exams, STI testing and treatment, pregnancy testing and counseling, and queer and trans-friendly care. At some of our centers (we operate 19 practices at 18 sites), we provide abortion care, primary care, support for growing families, needle exchange services, and hormone therapy for transgender patients.

We work with schools throughout the state to provide evidence-based, comprehensive sex education. We work with legislators, policy makers, and advocates to ensure that sexual and reproductive freedom are protected in Maine. We work in coalition with many other organizations to address sexual assault and domestic violence, to promote the rights of LGBTQIA Mainers, and to help make our state a place where people can create their families safely and with dignity.

Our patients, like many across the country, can’t always afford the health care they need. Health insurance does not always cover the cost of reproductive health services, and thanks to corporations like Hobby Lobby, it may not always have to. We do receive federal Title X funds— and (like many Planned Parenthood centers) we rely on those funds to keep our doors open. Federal dollars make sexual and reproductive health care available to many people who would not otherwise be able to afford services, but those dollars do not always cover the full cost of care, are not available for every patient, and don’t cover every service.

That’s one reason your support is so important. Throwing up our hands and allowing basic reproductive health care to be a luxury afforded only to those with enough money is not an option. This is a point you’ve helped us make and a promise you’re helping us to fulfill.

Access to family planning allows people to pursue education, to make a living wage, to leave abusive relationships, and to create the healthy families they choose. Celebrating a lack of funding for family planning services means celebrating the perpetuation of inequality.

Your support accomplished something else, too. You sent an emphatic message to those who would foster discrimination, inequality, and hatred in the name of religion: bigotry is not divine.

We’re proud to be an organization that works to promote sexual health and reproductive justice in Maine, and we are grateful to have received such an enormous outpouring of support for our work and our patients.

Thank you.

p.s. Haven’t donated yet but want to? Now’s your chance.

Update: as of Monday, April 13th, you’ve helped us raise over $40,000! Thank you, thank you, thank you forty thousand times over. 

PAP 40k 2

 

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