Category Archives: Legislative Advocacy

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.

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: http://bit.ly/womensday2016

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

A Pocket Full of Progress: Reproductive Justice Moves Forward in Maine

Despite the daily drama of the 2015 legislative session, the Maine legislature was able to enact a number of new laws that will make a big difference in Mainers’ ability to access reproductive care and to raise families in safe, healthy communities. Many of these laws survived because of the strangest development of the legislative session: 71 bills passed with bipartisan support were spared from the threat of veto because the Governor failed to act within the 10-day window allowed by the Maine Constitution.

Of course, this story isn’t over– the Governor believes that he can still veto these bills, and has requested the Maine Supreme Court to issue an opinion on the matter. We can’t predict what will happen, but we’re encouraged by the number of experts who agree that these bills are now laws.

We’ll be following these events closely, and we’ll keep you updated on developments and what they’ll mean for policy and practice in Maine. In the meantime, it’s worth discussing what a few of these new laws will mean for reproductive justice in our state.  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

 

Maine: Open For Business… For Everyone.

IMG_1640Perhaps you’ve been hearing about laws in Indiana and Arkansas (among other states) that would allow individuals and businesses to discriminate against people—particularly, women and LGBTQ people—and to justify that discrimination as an exercise of religious freedom. These are called Restoration of Religious Freedom Act (RFRA) laws, and Maine is one of several states considering a RFRA bill this year.

Freedom of religion is a fundamental right, protected by the Maine Constitution and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But unlike our existing religious freedom protections, this bill puts an individual’s beliefs ahead of the common good of all Mainers.

The federal RFRA law was the one that allowed Hobby Lobby to pick and choose which birth control methods their employee’s health insurance will cover. In many states, RFRA laws have already fostered lawsuits and discrimination (which seems to be disproportionately impacting women and LGBTQ people):

  • In Texas, a public bus driver refused to drive a passenger to Planned Parenthood, citing his religious beliefs.*
  • In Florida, an employer who believed pregnancy outside of marriage is a sin fired an unmarried pregnant employee.**
  • In Georgia, a student enrolled in a university counseling program claimed that she had the religiously based right to defy professional standards and condemn gay clients.***

Maine already has strong protections for religious freedom, and there is no evidence that they are not working.  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.

Continue reading