Category Archives: Legislative Advocacy

What Does Net Neutrality Have to do with Reproductive Rights?

Congress can save Net Neutrality


You may have heard that earlier this month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)—helmed by Trump appointee Ajit Pai—voted to gut the open internet principle known as Net Neutrality. This move is direct threat to women’s health, reproductive justice, and all movements that use the Internet to educate, organize, and fight back. But there’s still a chance to save the Internet as we know it.

Enacted in 2015, Net Neutrality prohibits internet service providers (ISPs) like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon from speeding up, slowing down, or blocking any content, applications, or websites you want to use.

As such, “It preserves our right to communicate freely online,” says the advocacy group Free Press. “Net Neutrality means an internet that enables and protects free speech. It means that ISPs should provide us with open networks—and shouldn’t block or discriminate against any applications or content that ride over those networks. Just as your phone company shouldn’t decide who you call and what you say on that call, your ISP shouldn’t interfere with the content you view or post online.”

Experts have pointed out how dismantling Net Neutrality could impact everyone from those involved in the #MeToo movement, to communities of color, to small business owners, to low-income people.

“Particularly damning is what today’s repeal will mean for marginalized groups, like communities of color, that rely on platforms like the internet to communicate, because traditional outlets do not consider their issues or concerns, worthy of any coverage,” wrote FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn in her dissenting opinion to the December 14 vote.

And doing away with Net Neutrality could really hurt women, the reproductive justice movement, and anyone who needs the kind of reproductive health care services we provide here at Maine Family Planning.

“Without a free and open internet, anti-choice extremists could pay to block access to accurate information about reproductive health,” NARAL Pro-Choice America recently warned. “Imagine a world where a woman searches the internet but can find no information on how to access an abortion.”

Once upon a time, that might have sounded far-fetched. But given the Trump administration’s transparent war on women, it’s a future sadly worth considering…and girding against.

What’s more, the end of Net Neutrality could spell trouble for Maine Family Planning’s groundbreaking telemedicine services, which include abortion care. Loosening the reins on mega-telecom companies and allowing them to engage in something called “paid prioritization”—establishing “fast lanes” for sites that pay, and slow lanes for everyone else—would be bad news for rural patients who access health care services at home.

As Modern Healthcare reported:

Those differing speeds could hurt telemedicine since it requires a “pretty robust connection,” said Mei Kwong, interim executive director and policy adviser for the Center for Connected Health Policy. “The last thing you want is for the interaction to suddenly freeze or the audio to go out or for the picture to be pixelated.”

Similarly, a panel of public health experts wrote in Health Affairs earlier this year:

Increasingly, telemedicine is being used to bring higher-end health care services to remote and rural areas to reduce health disparities. For telemedicine to be scalable and positively impact cost and outcomes, there must be a predictable infrastructure connecting patients, care providers, and technology. A prerequisite for telemedicine is broadband connectivity between telehealth sites. Reliable low cost service for telehealth is potentially threatened by the loss of [Net Neutrality or NN]. What happens to telehealth if Netflix traffic is preferred above medical applications? Could Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offer better services for one hospital system than another, helping them take over telehealth in a region? The undoing of NN weakens the infrastructure of reliable low cost connectivity that telehealth systems depend upon.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also declared in a letter to the FCC before the vote:

“AAP is opposed to the implementation of paid prioritization because of its detrimental effects on the elimination of health disparities, efficiency of healthcare, and access to health information by parents and caregiver. If healthcare providers do not have the financial resources necessary to purchase priority Internet access, they may not be able to provide the efficacious, patient-centered, cost effective care recommended as part of the ongoing transformation and reform of our nation’s healthcare system.”

Every day, Maine Family Planning works to increase health care access for rural and low-income women. Undoing Net Neutrality puts that access at risk.

Congress can still step in to restore the open Internet that the general public wants and deserves by overturning the FCC’s order through a joint resolution under the Congressional Review Act. Write or call your Member of Congress now.

In Maine, Rep. Bruce Poliquin in particular needs to hear from us.

Learn more at

For Maine Women & Families, Susan Collins Must Vote NO on Disastrous Tax Bill

Red alert! Senator Susan Collins is caving and she needs to hear from YOU—today and every day until the Senate votes on the morally vacant tax bill.

There are myriad ways this cruel legislation would hurt low-income and middle-class folks—all in the name of giving tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy—but we are particularly concerned by how the proposal could impact women and families. Not only does the bill cut key deductions that help Mainers make ends meet, but it tries to sneak in major policy changes that have nothing to do with “tax reform,” like gutting Obamacare and inserting anti-abortion language into an obscure provision on college savings. Bottom line: The tax bill is an abomination and it must be defeated.

From eliminating the student loan interest deduction and certain childcare credits to raising taxes on families that have serious and costly medical conditions, the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” includes many provisions that will make it harder for lower-income women and families to get by. Multiple analyses have shown that the tax plan’s biggest beneficiaries will be Wall Street titans and the super-rich, while middle- and lower-income households will see few, if any, benefits.

And then there’s the stealth attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate through the tax bill. Putting aside that the some members of Congress just can’t seem to accept the fact that the American public doesn’t want Obamacare to go away, this is a dangerous proposal that would result in an estimated 13 million people losing their health coverage.

According to the Maine Center for Economic Policy, without the individual mandate, Mainers could see their premiums go up by as much as $3,000 in Maine’s more economically-depressed regions and the state’s uninsured rate would go up from 6.8 percent to 11.8 percent within 10 years.

When folks lose their health insurance, it puts more pressure on organizations like ours—Title X-funded health care providers who serve low-income, uninsured patients every day. When you consider that the Trump administration is simultaneously waging war against birth control affordability and family planning providers (not to mention the “anti-abortion Easter egg” tucked into the tax bill), you have a perfect storm with women’s health and autonomy in its eye.

Call Senator Collins TODAY and urge her to vote NO on the obscene tax bill. Urge her instead to support proposals that improve the health and well-being of Maine women and families. Together, we can make our voices heard.

Call (202) 224-2523 now.

Or call one of her state offices (you can call any office, not just one near you):
Augusta – (207) 622-8414
Bangor – (207) 945-0417
Biddeford – (207) 283-1101
Caribou – (207) 493-7873
Lewiston – (207) 784-6969
Portland – (207) 780-3575

After Cyber Monday Comes #GivingTuesday

Reproductive Justice Champions support a wide range of Maine Family Planning services and programs.

Tomorrow, November 28, is Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving that offers folks the opportunity to support their favorite charities amidst holiday shopping and deal-scoring bonanzas.

We hope you’ll participate in this altruistic activity by donating to Maine Family Planning. In particular, we urge you to consider our Reproductive Justice Champion monthly giving program. By committing to a monthly donation, you help us provide comprehensive reproductive health care to women, men, and teens across Maine. You help us empower teens to make healthy decisions through our Best Practices sexuality education curriculum. You help us advocate for your rights in Augusta, in Washington, D.C., and in courtrooms. You help transgender Mainers, rural Mainers, low-income Mainers… You get the picture.

And we need your support now more than ever. With a hostile administration in Washington, D.C., family planning providers like us have a target on our backs. From affordable birth control to abortion access, the Trump administration is waging a multi-pronged attack on women’s health care. Loyal friends like like you help us fight back.

Donate here.

We’re Still Fighting


I’m Still Fighting image via Physicians for Reproductive Health

Today, we celebrate Maine’s historic vote to expand Medicaid (MaineCare). The margin of victory (59 to 41 percent, as of this writing) and geographic distribution of votes (supportive communities stretched from towns bordering Canada all the way to southern Maine) clearly demonstrate that Mainers believe access to health care shouldn’t depend on where you live or how much money you earn. Tuesday’s vote means more low-income folks will benefit from a full range of critical health care services, including family planning and reproductive care, and thus brings us closer to realizing our overlapping goals of reproductive and economic justice.

But we’re still fighting. 

First, we must ensure that our elected officials act on the will of the people. Already, Gov. Paul LePage (R) is snubbing Maine voters, declaring Wednesday that his administration will block the expansion until the program “has been fully funded by the Legislature at the levels [the Department of Health and Human Services] has calculated.”

That’s not right—or legal.

According to Talking Points Memo:

Mainers for Health Care, the organization behind the campaign to expand Medicaid, said despite LePage’s bluster, he can’t stop the expansion train without violating state law.

“Under the state constitution, 45 days after the legislature reconvenes, Medicaid expansion will become the law of the state,” the group’s spokesman David Farmer told TPM. “According to the statute, the Department of Health and Human Services has 90 days after that to submit an implementation plan to the federal government, and the implementation itself will take place in mid-August of 2018.”

As Maine Family Planning community organizer Cait Vaughan reminded supporters in an email today, “we’ll need all of you to show up and make sure state legislators follow through on Medicaid expansion.”

Meanwhile, we must remember that until women can use their Medicaid coverage for all the medical services they need—including abortion—this victory remains incomplete. And so we’ll continue our battle to overturn the state’s ban on Medicaid coverage for abortions.

We’re fighting because the right to an abortion is meaningless if low-income or rural women can’t access one.

It’s appropriate that we participated today in the #ImStillFighting “tweetstorm” organized by Physicians for Reproductive Heath, marking one year since Election Day 2016—a year that has seen a wholesale assault on reproductive rights, the family planning safety net, and women’s health care.

See why other, like-minded organizations are Still Fighting, below:

New Abortion Data: A Clarion Call to Family Planning Advocates

On Thursday, the Guttmacher Institute released a new analysis published in the American Journal of Public Health, giving insight into US abortion trends.

The data is fascinating and Maine Family Planning views it as a clarion call to continue and expand the work we’re doing in our clinics, in court, and in our communities.

The report from Guttmacher shows an overall decline in the US abortion rate between 2008-2014. Despite the 25 percent decline, abortion is still a common procedure in this country; one in four American women will have an abortion by age 45. Deep disparities remain among different demographic groups, with abortion increasingly concentrated among poor women and a long history of racism and discrimination contributing to differences in the abortion rate according to race and ethnicity.

These findings underscore the important work Maine Family Planning is doing to increase contraceptive use and abortion access around the state, as well as how much is at stake amid political attacks on reproductive health care nationwide. We see a declining abortion rate as a victory only if it is rooted in advances in comprehensive, affordable reproductive health care and the political and social conditions to support reproductive self-determination for everyone. Unfortunately, at least some of the recent decline can be attributed to politically-motivated & medically unnecessary state-level abortion restrictions that prevent women in many states from accessing care when they need it. Additionally, it’s clear that quality health care services remain financially out of reach for some Americans, rendering them unable to effectively plan pregnancies. As the hostile Trump administration continues its assault on health care, we fear these factors will only become more pronounced.

Our focus remains on empowering women to avoid unintended pregnancies via highly effective contraceptive methods, to be able to access abortion when they need to, and to make decisions based on their own visions of the families they want. Maine Family Planning is battling on many fronts to achieve full access to reproductive freedom: From offering comprehensive prevention programming in schools and long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) in our clinics; to providing innovative abortion care via telemedicine; to fighting in court to expand Medicaid coverage for abortions and overturn Maine’s burdensome law prohibiting nurse practitioners from providing abortion; to working with like-minded groups on the upcoming Yes on 2 vote to make Maine the first state to expand Medicaid by referendum. Guttmacher’s latest statistics prove that our work remains vital and necessary.

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 @ or 207-480-3518 to get started.

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

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

You’re Invited! Join us for Women’s Day at the State House

Maine Women’s Day at the State House is coming up on Thursday, January 21st, and we’d love for you to join us! With the start of the 2016 Legislative Session, it’s important to make sure legislators, press, and allies are paying attention to how policy decisions affect Maine women. Join us to help raise the visibility of Maine women, learn more about policies that will impact our lives during this session, and strengthen your skills to advocate on the issues that matter most to you.

Thursday, January 21, 2016
9:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Maine State House & Cross Office Building, Augusta
Please wear RED!
Register here:

Need more reasons to join us for Women’s Day at the State House? Here are our top three:  Continue reading