The ACA for LGBTQ Americans: What should you know?

For too long, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) individuals have faced obstacles to getting the health care they need. LGBTQ people are more likely to be uninsured, more likely to experience chronic health problems, and regularly face stigma and discrimination in health care settings. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) makes it easier for LGBTQ people to get affordable care and protects against discrimination so that as a country, we can begin to address health disparities faced by this community.

What do LGBTQ people (and their families, partners, and health care providers) need to know? Here are just a few of ways in which things have changed.

ACA for LGBTQ(Click on this infographic for a downloadable version.)

Want to read more? Check out information from:

 

Need health insurance? We’re here to help.

The Health Insurance Marketplace opens on November 1st, and Maine Family Planning is here to help you navigate your options. Whether you’re enrolling for the first time or renewing your current plan, we can help guide you through the process. Our experienced Certified Application Counselor (CAC) is available by appointment in our Augusta, Bangor, Belfast, and Lewiston Family Planning sites during the entire open enrollment period (November 1, 2015 – January 31, 2016).

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Want to know a bit more about Marketplace plans before making an appointment? To help break things down, we’ve put together a list of things we think everyone needs to know—so read up, share with friends and family (and then give us a call)!

You’ll get real coverage. All health insurance plans are now required to cover essential health services, including preventive screenings, prescriptions, emergency room care, and contraception. You can’t be denied coverage or dropped from a plan because of pre-existing health conditions.

Chances are, you’ll get financial help.  Continue reading

National Coming Out Day: A chance for safer Maine communities

This week’s guest post was authored by Cara Courchesne, Katie Kondrat, and Rachel Epperly, all of the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault and also appears in the Bangor Daily News

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With the Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality and Caitlyn Jenner’s iconic Vanity Fair cover, issues faced by the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) community dominated headlines this summer.

As we celebrate these victories and the headlines fade, activists continue to rightfully point out the work that remains.

SAFE-SPACE

We know that sexual violence is the most under-reported violent crime in the United States, and that there are often barriers to victims and survivors who want to report to law enforcement and seek services. We also know that the rates at which LGBTQ people experience sexual violence are alarming survivors face even more barriers when seeking help. 

These barriers include: previous homophobic or transphobic experiences with services providers and law enforcement; concern the services available don’t have the expertise to affirm and support someone; a lack of understanding by the victim that what happened was sexual violence; a fear of being outed; service providers making false assumptions about someone’s gender identify or sexual orientation; or worse still, discriminate against someone who has come to them for help.  Continue reading

Back by popular demand: we can get you covered!

Open enrollment for Marketplace Insurance Plans starts November 1st, 2015, and remains open until February 1st, 2016. For those who don’t have health insurance, the time to sign up for coverage is quickly approaching, and Maine Family Planning is here to help.

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Last year, we helped over 900 Mainers find and enroll in an affordable plan; we can help you find coverage this year.

Reproductive health care is essential for well-being and success. The ability to decide whether and when to have children allows people to pursue education, fulfilling careers, and to raise safe and healthy families if or when they’re ready. As important as reproductive health care is, it’s not the only kind of care people need. That’s why Maine Family Planning will be helping patients and their families enroll in affordable health insurance plans– we want Mainers to be covered for ALL of their healthcare needs, including Primary Care, prescriptions, and any emergencies that may come up. Maine Family Planning has always been a place where anyone can get affordable health care, regardless of insurance status. While we do accept private and public health insurance, many people who come to us are uninsured. In fact, we’re often one of the only health centers that people without health insurance can afford to visit.

What is the Affordable Care Act (ACA)?  Continue reading

We #StandWithPP

Over the last few weeks, a series of highly edited “sting” videos have been released in an attempt to discredit Planned Parenthood’s abortion services. These videos, filmed secretly by an anti-choice group, show providers having candid discussions about the collection and donation of fetal tissue. They do not, as anti-choice activists suggest, show Planned Parenthood engaging in any illegal activity.

While Maine Family Planning does not participate in tissue donation programs, we acknowledge that tissue donation is not only a legal practice, but also an ethical one. Fetal tissue can only be donated with the consent of the patient having an abortion, and we support those patients’ right to make that decision. Medical research involving donated human tissue contributes to life-saving medical advances; this research previously enjoyed bipartisan support, and we still believe in its importance.

plannedparenthood_tx700Despite the very small number of Planned Parenthood affiliates participating in the tissue donation program and the fact that (except in rare cases) federal money is already off limits when it comes to paying for abortion services, anti-choice activists and many republican legislators are using this manufactured controversy to call for a complete elimination of federal funding for Planned Parenthood.  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

I was only ever meant to be your Papa: A father’s letter to his daughter

This post was written by Stephen; he lives in Portland with his family where he works as a parent and a nanny. You can read more about his journey to fatherhood at his blog, papa bear

Dear Birdie:

I have been asked to write about what it means to me to be a father. Or more specifically, what it means to be a transgender father. I am a father who carried you for nine months in my body, who labored with you for 22 hours, and at the end of a very long day–with Daddy waiting to catch you– who gave birth to you. Right now you don’t know that most dads don’t get to carry a baby, right now you don’t know that some people think there is a right and a wrong way to build a family, right now you don’t know anything except that you have a Daddy and a Papa who love you more than anyone else in this world.

stephen birdieBefore you were born we talked a lot about how we were going to make a family, and we considered all our options but the one that felt most right for us was the path that ultimately led us to you. I was worried about so many things; how we would be treated by our community, how we would be treated by doctors, and if you would be accepted when you were born. Most of all I wondered if I was strong enough to be a man and be pregnant. But we wanted you so much that we took a leap of faith. I whispered a wish and a prayer to you; that if you were ready, then so was I.

I want you to know that I haven’t always been happy with my body and I have had a difficult time loving myself. But something changed when you began to grow. 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

Who’s Being Excluded? A Body Image Conversation.

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.

feet in sneaks

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

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. 

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On The Front Lines