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
This post was written by Anna Rabasco, an intern at Maine Family Planning and a senior at Colby College. Anna is passionate about reproductive rights, watching documentaries, and eating cheese.
The topic of body image is all over the blogosphere and magazines, and last month, Colby College joined the conversation. At the recent Body Image Narrative event, students from Colby submitted stories about their personal experiences with body image. The event provided a look into how body image is being talked about, albeit within the context of a small liberal arts college. Many of the stories involved messages of struggle and hope. Here is a quote from one of the narratives:
The calories needed to be burned. The food needed to stay away. The voice needed to be happy. This cycle went on for a few months….There is a lot left that I need to work through, a lot of healing that still needs to be done, but I am strong now.
Many of the narratives contained similar themes that come up in this quote – a struggle with disordered eating and the journey to overcoming that struggle. While these narratives were powerful and the response from the audience was overwhelmingly positive, there were certain audience members who expressed their disappointment with the lack of diversity in the stories. Out of twelve narratives read, only one was from a male viewpoint. Most of the stories had white, cisgender, able-bodied authors, and focused on eating disorders, rather than positive stories of body image.
So why did this event attract the stories that it did? Why did certain groups of people feel comfortable sharing, while others didn’t? Continue reading
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.
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.
Perhaps 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
Last spring, I unexpectedly lost a pregnancy at the end of my first trimester. Seven months later, the week before Christmas, I miscarried again. In addition to the physical and emotional burden of the second loss, I also experienced a significant financial one: after deductibles and co-payments, it cost my single-income family nearly $3,000, including the D&C – known in another context as an abortion.
After discovering I was pregnant again in February, I scarcely had time to develop a response before it became clear that it wasn’t going to be a viable pregnancy. This time, my first call wasn’t to my midwife – it was to Maine Family Planning.
Some miscarriages resolve naturally, but others require medical intervention, and that, I had discovered, can come at great expense.
I had no hesitation about calling MFP. As a queer-identified woman in a heterosexual primary relationship, I’ve gratefully accessed affordable and judgement-free services from family planning agencies for many years. I did have one very serious reservation, however: I knew that going to MFP in March would mean driving through the gauntlet of 40 Days of Life, the annual anti-choice demonstration outside their gates. And I had to think hard about whether I could face a third devastating loss, this time more affordably, but accompanied by public shaming from an assembly of my Maine neighbors.
People accessing abortion care may be feeling grief, like me. They may be feeling fear, or regret, or relief – like me. No one seeks these services without some mix of these emotions, and likely many more, but few people drive through without a deep feeling that it is what they must do. And not one of us deserves to have the emotions surrounding that experience compounded by the uncompassionate judgement of strangers. Continue reading
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.
During the 40 days of Lent (and every Thursday all year long), Maine Family Planning’s headquarters in Augusta is picketed by protesters who post signs along the street leading to our building. These signs contain lies, display graphic images, and convey messages intended to frighten and shame our patients and staff.
As part of our 2015 Pledge-A-Picketer campaign, we asked donors and supporters to tell us what their signs would express—and we’ve received some incredibly supportive, honest, and creative signs! While the picketers stand outside with dishonest, judgmental signs meant to shame and control, our supporters are sending a message in the lobby of our health center.
Some of our favorites:
“Thanks to all for your commitment to the health of Maine women and girls.” – Lois
“Thanks for your courageous work in keeping women healthy and giving us CHOICES.” –Claire
As the end of February approaches, it’s 14 degrees below zero outside, the sun is shining, and the annual onslaught of daily picketers (in honor of Lent) are keeping warm in their cars across from our Augusta Health Center. Before their strategic retreat into warm cars, however, they did manage to pound their deceptive and degrading signs into the frozen snow banks on either side of our driveway.
Harassing Maine Family Planning clients is hateful
I recently visited Maine Family Planning [in Augusta], where protesters have gathered on the occasion of Lent to picket. They littered the side of the street with vulgar and provocative signs aimed at shaming those coming and going.
Whatever position you take on the issue of abortion and reproductive rights, it was clear to me that these people have hate in their hearts that is antithetical to the Christian beliefs they claim to espouse.
As an ethical issue, which I believe it is, this is an issue that merits conversation. But Maine Family Planning is a medical facility that provides information and health care to women and families that may not otherwise have it. Standing outside and harassing patients and staff as they come and go is hateful (and a little immature), and it is certainly not a valid Christian response.
When a person or group acts in ways to bully, condemn and humiliate, they undermine their ability to speak on moral issues with any legitimacy. Furthermore, I fail to recognize the connection between these demonstrations and the Christian season of Lent.
Lent is a time of introspection when Christians engage in prayer and self-denial in repentance and preparation leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. It is not a time for these types of antics, and it is certainly not a time for nailing others to a cross. Shame on them.
Maria Elmshauser, Gardiner, ME
I do not know Ms. Elmshauser. I am very grateful to her, however, for her articulate and eloquent voice, a voice that resonates with every patient, staff member, and visitor to our building, especially during these 40 days. I hope that it resonates with you, too.
Your support makes a difference for us and the nearly 24,000 Mainers we serve, enabling Maine Family Planning to, as Ms. Elmshauser states, “provide information and health care to women and families that may not otherwise have it.”
President, Maine Family Planning Board of Directors
P.S. If you already have supported Maine Family Planning this fiscal year, thank you! If not, please consider following one of these links:
Maine Family Planning’s 2015 Pledge-A-Picketer Campaign
From February 18 to March 29, Maine Family Planning’s headquarters in Augusta will be picketed every day by protesters with dishonest messages and graphic images on signs intended to frighten and shame our patients and staff. These protesters oppose the right of Mainers to control their own sexual health and reproductive lives.
Please support our patients and staff by making a pledge based on the number of protesters we count (for instance, 10¢ per picketer), or by making a one-time gift to our Pledge-A-Picketer campaign. You can make a per-picketer pledge here, make a one-time gift online, or mail your check to:Maine Family Planning
PO Box 587
Augusta, ME 04332-0587
Tell us what YOUR sign would say. Continue reading
During the upcoming 2015 legislative session, the Maine Legislature will consider LD 83, a bill that would require minors (under 18) and adults under guardianship to get the written consent of a parent or legal guardian in order to obtain an abortion. If this feels like a rerun, that’s because it is–legislators defeated a version of the bill in 2013 and 2011, in part because it’s so out of touch with the way real Maine families work.
Maine already has an adult involvement law, and it works. For over 25 years, Maine’s adult involvement law has encouraged family involvement in a teen’s decision to seek abortion, while providing young people with the guidance and support necessary to evaluate all of the options available. The current law is a bipartisan success story–the result of a compromise between republicans and democrats, backed by organizations that support abortion rights and those that oppose them. Our state’s adult involvement law stands as a national model because it works– it truly protects and respects the health, safety, and dignity of young people. Continue reading