Category Archives: Reproductive Justice

Fighting for Medicaid is a Feminist Issue

Did you know that 1 in 5 American women in their reproductive years receive health insurance through the Medicaid program? In fact, Medicaid is a lifeline for nearly half of women in that age group who are below the federal poverty line, and nearly a third of Black women in that group (compared with 16% of white peers). Did you also know that LGBTQ+ people disproportionally experience poverty compared to heterosexual and cisgender people, making them more reliant on Medicaid for health care? Did you know that the Medicaid program covers care expenses for 51% of all births in the United States?

In this political moment, one of the country’s largest health care programs—designed to improve access and quality of life for low income people and those with disabilities—is under attack on both federal and state levels. Last month, the proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed a vote in the House and stands to go up for a vote in the Senate. One of the many dangerous components of the AHCA is its targeting of the Medicaid program, which is an essential health care safety net for low income people, as well as a key facet of our nation’s family planning effort. Medicaid allows coverage for family planning services without copays, or penalties and red tape for choosing one type of contraceptive over another. The AHCA’s proposals to shift to a block grant or per capita cap structure for Medicaid would shift more costs to states, which would end up putting more costs on poor patients as well as their providers.

Unfortunately, Maine is also experiencing more localized attacks on our state Medicaid program, known as MaineCare. Maine is one of 19 states that have yet to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare), due to Governor LePage’s multiple vetoes of this effort. Now, through a waiver application process, the Maine Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) is attempting to enact rule changes that would place even more barriers to health care before poor and disabled Mainers, and result in potentially thousands more losing MaineCare coverage. Luckily, Maine’s “state plan amendment” has allowed for Maine Family Planning clinics to extend free reproductive health care services to low-income Mainers who are otherwise not eligible for MaineCare. However, the DHHS proposal to eliminate retroactive coverage would have negative effects on our ability to continue offering this service to people who fall through the cracks of our current health care system.

Opponents of these changes spoke passionately at a public hearing in Portland yesterday. One advocate with Homeless Voices for Justice—Dee Clarke—asked blatantly, “Why are you trying to hurt us?” Several mothers, including Clarke, spoke about raising their children on MaineCare, which allowed them to care for their families in the best way possible while facing the daily challenges of living in poverty. A nurse midwife spoke against the proposed $5,000 asset test as one change that would punish many women seeking prenatal care whose families operate small businesses. As she so poignantly put it, “You can’t sell off your small business or farm to afford prenatal care.”

Both the data and human stories make it clear:  Defending and expanding Medicaid is a feminist issue with major implications for women and LGBTQ+ health. The political attacks on Medicaid are fueled by classist stereotyping and stigmatizing of poor people, and the harm disproportionately falls on poor women. Cutting Medicaid means rolling back access to reproductive health care as well. It means more unplanned pregnancies, less healthy pregnancies, and more sick mothers and babies. Progressive Maine organizations are fighting to expand MaineCare this year, and Maine Family Planning is joining them. We continue to fight every day for the well-being of Maine women, teens, and LGBTQ+ people.

If you’d like to learn more about how to get involved in this effort, contact Community Organizer Cait Vaughan at 207-480-3518 or at cvaughan@mainefamilyplanning.org.

Self-Induced Abortion – Questions & Resources

In light of ongoing legislative attacks and widespread uncertainty about the security of abortion rights and access, conversations and resources addressing self-induced abortion (SIA) are increasing. We at Maine Family Planning want to serve as a resource for pregnant people in Maine who are considering their options with regards to an unplanned pregnancy.

It’s important to note that pregnant people have always found ways to terminate pregnancies—whether with the assistance of healers and caregivers, medication or natural remedies, or in a clinical setting like a doctor’s office or family planning clinic. MFP provides a safe and supportive clinical setting for anyone seeking to exercise their legal right to abortion. We offer both aspiration and medication abortion. We strive to be a trusted community-based resource that respects our patients’ dignity and unique needs, while providing education and counseling, in addition to reproductive health care services. It is our sincere hope and highest goal that all individuals living in the service areas of our 18 clinics who need abortion care will feel comfortable seeking out the compassionate professionals at MFP.

We also acknowledge the reality that barriers to accessing abortion exist across the country, and in Maine. Especially noteworthy are lack of public insurance coverage for abortion care, minimal private insurance coverage for abortion care , transportation, work schedules and child care needs that make scheduling appointments challenging, as well as abortion stigma. Some individuals have experienced trauma at the hands of medical providers, and thus lack trust in such institutions. For others, the antagonism of protestors is an insurmountable barrier. Even when clinics like ours provide excellent, nonjudgmental care—there are many reasons why someone might not be able or comfortable seeking out an abortion in such a setting, including a strong personal desire to control their own experience.

When people discuss SIA, they are often referring to self-administering of the pills mifepristone and misoprostol. Some women are acquiring such pills online and self-inducing at home or another location, often with trusted loved ones and caregivers present. Some women have faced legal persecution for such practices, or for the purchasing of pills—so we want people considering this method to both be aware of resources for accurate information on SIA, as well as the potential legal consequences.

Women face difficult—and sometimes seemingly impossible—choices each day in navigating management of their fertility. We know that desperate individuals can resort to self-harm and violent attempts to end pregnancies that they do not wish to carry. MFP advocates and organizes daily for the rights to bodily autonomy and self-determination for women and anyone who can become pregnant. This often means opposing legislative measures that attempt to unjustly surveil and criminalize pregnant people, and advocating fiercely for safe abortion access. We believe in responding to inquiries and concerns from Maine women with scientific and evidence-based answers. We encourage you to reach out to us, as well as seek accurate and feminist sources of information in doing your own research.

Here are some additional resources on SIA and pregnancy options:

Destigmatizing abortions:  the word, the act, and our reaction.

When and how did the word “abortion” become as abhorrent as a cuss word?  Even the whispered word can silence a room.  I know.  I’ve done it.  Who do we blame?  The “fake news” the “alternative facts” the “something-else-in-media-today”?!  With all the finger pointing flying around our legislative bodies maybe we need to look inward?  Maybe we need to let the trickle down trickle right to our doorsteps much like the spring rain.

Will making the word more mainstream help us?  Using it more in daily vernacular?  How about a challenge?   Humanize the word.  Think of the women, families behind the word.  Not all reasons for abortions are the same, think more like snowflakes.  All different, but all make snow.  All reasons for abortions are different – financial, life goals, timing, needs, wants, desires – but all make up the collective of abortions.

I am here to help.  At Maine Family Planning we ask women to share their stories.  Here is a handful:

“I love and adore the children I have and it’s my responsibility to make (the) right choices for them, without this service I could not accomplish this.”

“At 40 years old, faced with an unwanted pregnancy I made the choice to abort.  My choice – how lucky I am to have that choice and be taken care of by the most compassionate staff.”

“I am a single mother with two children who is struggling to just get by.  We live at a shelter and have no income.  I have been taking birth control and hadn’t had any problems.  I got pregnant with this child while using my pills.  Due to my situation, I decided that I would not be fair or right to bring this child into this family and to also take what little we have away from my two girls.  I truly feel that this abortion was the right choice for me at this time.”

“I came for my abortion and the protesters didn’t have any impact on me.  I had my procedure done due to medical reasons.  It was my choice and I do not feel guilty at all.”

“Some people say it’s not a choice; it’s a right but when you’re in a spot you need to do what you have to.  Trust us, it’s not easy but this world has its ups and downs.  You don’t know my reason.  I’m sure everyone has one and only God can judge you.”

“I am so thankful for having the right to choose.  Protesters and others don’t take into account the negative cycle of events that often occur when so many children are brought into this world by parents who are not mentally, financially, or emotionally prepared.”

“The thought of someone else making a decision about my body/my pregnancy is a very unsettling feeling.  It’s my body, my life, my choice.  America is the home of the free.  It’s my right to decide what happens with my body.”

Seven.  Seven stories to help you humanize an essential piece of women’s reproductive rights.

Maine Family Planning is committed to preserving all aspects of women’s reproductive rights and we are here for you.

Why we need Title X, Abortion Care & Maine Family Planning:

The Title X Family Funding Program gives federal funds to centers—including Maine Family Planning!—that provide services such as contraception, cancer screenings, STD testing, and much more. Enacted in 1970, it was designed to provide quality family planning care to low-income or uninsured persons who may not be able to afford it on their own. With funding from Title X, they can get the care they need at little to no cost. In 2013, it was estimated that
Title X-funded centers served 4.6 million clients nationwide (Guttmacher Institute 2015).

In 2014, approximately 20,000 Maine women received contraceptive services and supplies from
Title-X funded programs (Frost et al. 2016). Without funding from Title X, it’s likely that these women may not have received the contraceptive care they needed. Using contraceptive methods
such as birth control can have benefits in addition to preventing pregnancy such as regulating periods, preventing menstrual migraines, reducing acne, and relieving symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). So don’t let people fool you—there are MANY reasons to start using a contraceptive method beyond pregnancy prevention, and contraception services aren’t the only
services provided by Maine Family Planning and other Title X-funded centers.

Due to the Hyde Amendment (FMI HERE), no federal funds can be used for abortion services.  Maine is also a state where Mainecare coverage does not include abortion care.  Maine Family Planning believes that abortion care is a KEY piece of women’s health.

There are bound to be some people in your life saying they do not support a woman’s right to choose unless she has been sexually assaulted or if she will be harmed bringing a pregnancy to term. Often, people view abortion as a last resort, something that should only be considered when there’s nothing else to do. This creates the feeling of taboo, shedding a negative light on those who receive abortion care. Abortion shouldn’t be considered a last resort; it should simply be viewed as another option.

Everyone should have equal access to abortion care, no matter the reason for seeking abortion care, whether it’s sexual assault, harm to the mother, not wanting a child, not being able to afford another child, or any reason at all. The decision is valid; the choice resides with the person who’s pregnant, period.

Some of those people in your life who don’t support abortion may be participating in 40 Days for Life: a group that pickets at Maine Family Planning’s Augusta office every year. Consider fighting back—against them and the stigma surrounding a woman’s right to choose—by participating in our Pledge-A-Picketer campaign HERE.

Maine Family Planning also provides physical exams, pap smears, breast exams, transgender health care, and immunizations! Title X-funded family planning centers are essential for low-income or uninsured women—and men!—who may not be able to afford these services otherwise. It’s not just abortion and birth control; it’s so, so much more.

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.

Sources:
Contraceptive Needs and Services, 2014 Update, Frost JJ, Frohwirth L and Zolna MR, 2016.
< https://www.guttmacher.org/report/contraceptive-needs-and-services-2014-update >

The Role of Reproductive Freedom in Ending Domestic Violence

The right to determine what happens to our own physical selves has everything to do with our safety and wellbeing.  Attacks bodily autonomy are central to the issue of domestic violence. The behavior of those who commit domestic abuse is rooted in the belief  that they have the right to make decisions about every facet of their partners’ lives, including their bodies.

Survivors tell us that their abusers, using a wide range of coercive tactics, dictate what they wear, when and what they eat, where they go, who they see, when they sleep, and whether they can hold their children in their arms. They tell us they are not allowed to say “no” to sex, and when they do they are assaulted. They tell us they are grabbed, touched, hit, kicked, stroked and held in ways they do not want, and which they are unable to repel. In short, abusive people systematically work to strip survivors of their autonomy and their ability to make choices for themselves without risk of retribution.

Often, abusers focus on their partners’ reproductive health as a means of maintaining control over their partners’ lives. This is called reproductive coercion, and it particularly—though not exclusively—impacts women, for whom a pregnancy can make the difference between breaking free of and being connected to their abusers forever, through shared parenting if not through the relationship.

Women tell us about preparing to end the relationship, having painstakingly put together plans for starting over—a place to go, some income, childcare and transportation—when they realize they are pregnant. Maybe he tampered with her pills, or maybe he poked holes in the condoms, or maybe he raped her. No matter the tactic, with a new baby all of those carefully laid plans are often rendered unworkable. Some women tell us that this happened to them more than once: “It’s like he always knew, just when I was getting ready to go.”

Others tell us about how their abusers kept them from ending a pregnancy, sometimes physically keeping them from going to a clinic for an abortion, sometimes showing behavior change that lasted only until the baby was born. And still others tell us about how their partners supported them, even encouraged them, to get an abortion—and then later used the knowledge of the procedure as a weapon, blackmailing and shaming them with it. Abusers are often perfectly willing to capitalize on the social stigma associated with abortion, as doing so allows them to isolate their partners even further.

Reproductive freedom matters for survivors of domestic violence. It matters because it is an essential part of safety planning around reproductive coercion. It matters because the ability to become pregnant leaves women vulnerable to abusers in a very specific set of ways, and women need to be able to manage that vulnerability in whatever way works best for them.

Reproductive freedom also matters because the belief that anyone other than a woman herself has the right to control what happens to her body is a key part of the culture than condones abuse in the first place. At the core, it is an abuser’s belief that his rights take precedence over hers that drives his behavior, and his belief has been culturally supported for millennia, in laws that treated women and children as property and gave men the final say over their lives.

In just one example, it was only in 1985 that raping one’s spouse was finally outlawed in Maine. Before that, our laws maintained that a husband’s right to his wife’s body was absolute; that once she was married, she had given up her right to choose when and if to engage in sexual activity. But by 1985, our understanding had evolved. We saw that women have the right to decide for ourselves what happens to our bodies—and that right must be recognized and upheld under the law.

The same understanding needs to be applied to our discussions around reproductive freedom.

Access to a full range of reproductive health care, including abortion, not only helps survivors counteract the abusive tactics used by their partners, but it sends a message of accountability to abusers, as well. Because a culture that insists that only a woman can decide what happens to her body is one that will be able to stand beside survivors and affirm, “Your body is yours, and no one else’s, and we will support you in keeping it that way.”

Used with permission by MCEDv and also appeared on the MCEDV Voices Blog March 7, 2017

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

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