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.
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.