Category Archives: Comprehensive Sexuality Education

I’m TTC and I Support Access to Abortion: Here’s Why

My husband and I are trying to conceive (“TTC,” as they say on the message boards). As many have chronicled before me, this can be a challenging journey. Seems like an odd time to get involved with an organization that provides abortion and contraception, a special sort of cognitive dissonance. But it’s not. Let me explain why, and why I support Maine Family Planning and all the services it offers.

The truth is that my husband and I are not trying to conceive, we are trying to start a family. The two are not precisely the same, because a family is far more complicated than a pregnancy. This understanding is at the heart of the “family planning” that Maine Family Planning provides.

My husband and I are very fortunate that we have some control over the way in which we build our family. This feels strange to write, as often I feel very out of control of this process, but in ways that matter, it is the truth.

First of all, we have been able to select a time in our lives when we feel we have economic and domestic stability. This is lucky. This is because we had sex education and access to contraceptives throughout our younger adult years. Not all Mainers have that. Maine Family Planning offers both education and contraceptives and works with women and men at all stages of their reproductive lives.

And that economic and domestic stability into which we hope to bring our children? Not all Mainers have that either. Which is why Maine Family Planning actively works, in direct and indirect ways, to improve health and economic circumstances for women so they can parent through difficult times. Take, for example, MFP’s behavioral health and chronic condition management services at their Ellsworth clinic. Or the Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC), which provides supplemental food and farmers’ market vouchers for clients in Washington and Hancock Counties. These are much needed lifelines for a number of struggling Maine families. Furthermore, MFP works with state legislators and the Alliance for Maine Women to support bills that advance economic opportunities for low-income Mainers, especially women and mothers—bills like LD 1475, an Act to Reduce Child Poverty by Leveraging Investments in Families Today (more on that bill here).

Secondly, while my husband and I often feel helpless, we have lots of help—more medical providers than any one person wants in her life, to be honest. We are able to afford and access health professionals who provide testing, counseling, and care. If and when I should get pregnant, I will have them to answer my ten thousand questions about what pain reliever I can take and what fish I can eat and whether I should (or shouldn’t) go to the emergency room because I’ve had gas pains for three days straight. A luxury, right? It shouldn’t be. That’s why Maine Family Planning provides care and counseling to people wanting to start families and plan pregnancies.

But let’s get to the nittier, grittier stuff, the hard-to-wrap-your-head-around stuff, the “A” word: abortion. Although one of MFP’s prerogatives is increased access to abortion, its goal is not more abortions; its goal is stronger women and stronger families. The best way to decrease abortions is to prevent unintended pregnancy with education and contraception. (It is important to note here that not all abortions are because of unintended pregnancy; indeed many are medical decisions.) Still, until we live in that perfect world where unintended pregnancies don’t happen, MFP is here for Mainers—and has been for 45 years.

It’s possible that my husband’s and my journey to start a family will lead us to adoption. How could I possibly support an organization, then, that provides termination of pregnancies that might otherwise put children into the adoption system, children who might end up in my home? Unfortunately, this logic is based on a persistent fallacy that decreased abortion rates lead to increased newborn relinquishment. (Two articles about that here and here.) For many mothers, for many reasons, adoption is not necessarily an alternative to abortion. Furthermore, there are currently close to 2,000 children in Maine’s foster care system, with the need for homes far outpacing those available.

Last but certainly not least on the list of reasons I support Maine Family Planning: I hope to become a mother, in whatever way that unfolds. Because of this, I have thought long and hard about the world I want my children to live in, and I know I want it to be a world of choice and access. I believe my children should have at least the same kind of freedom and control over their bodies and reproductive choices that I’ve had over mine.

To support Maine Family Planning is to support Maine’s families, including perhaps eventually my own. We all have a stake in supporting MFP. I hope, one day, I’ll be able to explain that to my daughter.

Kathryn is a new MFP volunteer and advocate for reproductive rights and universal access to health care. She is a writer and teacher living in Maine.

Experimenting and hooking up: not just for college students

Experimenting and hooking up are very normal things to do during our college experience. While it’s fun and exciting to try new things and be with different people, it can also be dangerous if the proper protection isn’t used. Using protection such as condoms or dental dams can be a great way to decrease the chances of getting a sexually transmitted disease. However, we all have a mishap once in awhile. It’s not the end of the world—it’s easy to get tested and
receive treatment.

I interviewed some fellow college students to find out how often they get tested for STDs (everything was 100% anonymous!). A common response was, “Every few months, just to be safe.” Another response: “After every relationship or new sexual encounter.” And, “I do it when I’m sexually active and concerned.” All of these are great examples of how often a person who’s sexually active should get tested for STDs.

STD testing is readily available; all you have to do is make an appointment at your local family planning clinic. People who qualify for Maine’s Family Planning benefit program can receive STD testing for free—along with other services! Applications for this program are available at any Maine Family Planning location.

And remember: free condoms are available at every MFP clinic. STDs are preventable, so along with getting tested on a regular basis, be safe!

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.

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.

Misgendering Your Transgender Friend

Imagine a scenario: you’re talking to your friend, when suddenly, you use the wrong pronoun. It makes things awkward and you have no idea how to proceed. The question is: What do you do when you misgender a trans person?

Your first reaction may to be to freak out and apologize repeatedly. Don’t! This could manipulate your friend into feeling guilty,   something they shouldn’t have to feel. In order not to overreact, you might feel inclined to ignore the mistake and move on. This could also be problematic and lead to your friend thinking that you don’t care.

But you do care about your friend. You didn’t mean to misgender them, and you want them to know that. The response is simple: apologize once, correct yourself by using the right pronoun (most important—this reaffirms their identity!), and continue with the conversation. This approach lets them know that you realize that you made a mistake, without making them feel like they’re an inconvenience to you.

Pronoun slip-ups happen to everyone. The most important thing is that you let your trans friend know that you support them 100%. Practice their pronouns so you get them right next time!

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.

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

 

TODAY IS NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION DAY!

Are you registered to vote in November’s election? Here’s why it’s important and here’s what you need to know about registering and voting.

register-to-vote

Six weeks from today, on November 4th, Maine voters will elect a Governor, a U.S. Senator, two members of Congress, 35 State Senators, and 151 State Representatives. Every voter will have the opportunity to cast their vote for Governor, U.S. Senator, one member of Congress, one State Senator and one State Representative. Think this election’s not important because you’re not voting for President? Here are some reasons your vote matters this year: Continue reading

Pizza and Choice: It’s What’s for Dinner

Between all these Blurred Lines and a rape case where a teacher who admits to raping his (now dead by suicide) student gets sentenced to only 30 days in prison, it’s hard to imagine there are open and positive conversations happening about sex.

But they are happening! And really, they have to.

Al Vernacchio, a 12th grade high school teacher, gives us a new way to talk about sex and sexuality education that is smart, accessible, funny, and….well, delicious. Continue reading

The Local Scene ~ Teen Pregnancy Prevention in Maine Schools

Kathy Kerr, Teacher at Mount Blue Middle School, Farmington

So far during Teen Pregnancy Prevention month, we have taken a global, national and statewide look at teen pregnancy.  Now we’re narrowing our focus even more — to the classroom level — to see what some Maine teachers and schools are doing.

FPA’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program works with schools and community organizations dedicated to providing youth with comprehensive sexuality education.  Our program’s main goal is to strengthen the capacity of Maine educators and schools as they provide sexuality education programs that deliver positive results.

We promote the use of evidence-based programs because they’ve been proven to change sexual behaviors among youth, like: Continue reading

Teen Pregnancy ~ Maine’s Encouraging News!

In last week’s blog post highlighting Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, we talked about how the US compares to the rest of the industrialized world with respect to teen sexual behavior and pregnancy rates. Let’s zoom in to look at Maine and how we compare to other U.S. states.

Did you know that Maine has the 6th lowest teen pregnancy rate in the U.S.? Maine’s teen pregnancy rate of 43 (per 1,000 females ages 15-19) is much lower than the U.S. rate of 68. The lowest rate in the U.S. is found in New Hampshire (33) and the highest rate in the U.S. is in New Mexico (93).

Many factors affect teen pregnancy rates ~ demographics, socio-economics, education policies and access to health care resources for young people.  Here are some of the things Maine has done right in order to lower what were some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the U.S. 30 years ago:
Continue reading

Teen Pregnancy — How Does the U.S. Measure Up?

Last week, as we began our celebration of Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, I noted that the U.S. has experienced dramatic decreases in teen pregnancy rates over the past decades. While this is an excellent trend, our teens still lag far behind their peers in other countries.

Take a look for yourself: the U.S. has much higher teen birth rates than other western,
industrialized countries and it doesn’t stop there– teen pregnancy and abortion rates are also much higher in the U.S.

On average, U.S. teens initiate sexual activity around the same age and are no more sexuality active than teens in other countries.

So, what are we, in the U.S. doing wrong?

Or to put a more positive spin on the question, what are other countries doing right? Continue reading