Maine people have a right to know about the use of dangerous phthalates in our everyday products. That’s why Mainers across the state signed petitions to initiate rule-making on four dangerous phthalates. The rule would name four phthalates as priority chemicals and require manufacturers to disclose their use in products under Maine’s Kid Safe Products Act.

 

The Maine DEP is holding a public hearing on the rule on Tuesday, July 29, 2014 at 28 Tyson Dr., Augusta. Parents, scientists, health professionals, and other Mainers will be testifying in support of the rule. Join us at noon to show your support. Email Kathy at kkilraindelrio@mainewomen.org to let us know you are planning to attend.

 

Phthalates are found in hundreds of products we all use every day, including soft vinyl products like shower curtains, raincoats, and lunch boxes, as well as many personal care products like shampoo and body lotion. Health effects associated with phthalate exposure include birth defects in baby boys, learning disabilities, asthma, and infertility & reproductive harm which can also lead to testicular and prostate cancer later in life. Phthalates are found in the bodies of most people – including all 25 Mainers who were tested for phthalates this year. (Read Hormones Disrupted to learn more.)

 

Can’t attend? Write a public comment that we can submit to the DEP on your behalf.  Hand written comments make an impact. It’s easy. Write your comment and be sure to:

  • Address your comment to Kerri Malinowski, Maine DEP, 17 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04330;
  • Include that you are writing in regard to Chapter 880 and the proposed rule on phthalates;
  • Write about why it’s important to you that the DEP adopt this rule;
  • Tell the DEP to act now to require manufacturers to disclose the use of phthalates in everyday products.

Once you write your comment, mail it to the Maine Women’s Lobby at 124 Sewall St., Augusta, ME 04330, Attn: Kathy. We’ll present it with others from across the state at the hearing on July 29th.

 

You can also sign our online petition at http://bit.ly/1nM6L0v.

 

Read about Paige Holmes’ experience as one of the 25 Maine people who was tested and found phthalates in her body: Careful shopper or not, your body may still be polluted with toxic chemicals. Her words describe how thousands of Maine parents feel: “Where is my exposure coming from? The most frustrating thing for me, as a mother, is not being able to answer that question. If I am exposed to any chemical, my sons are probably exposed too. But complete information on the chemical content of products is almost non-existent, leaving me unable to protect myself and my loved ones.”

 

Mainers need to know when our products have dangerous phthalates in them. It’s time for the Maine DEP to act. 

Press Release

Maine Choice Coalition

Monday, June 30, 2014

Augusta – The Supreme Court today dealt a blow to women’s ability to access contraceptives, when it ruled “closely held” corporations can refuse to cover birth control for their female employees. The Maine Choice Coalition called the ruling unprecedented and deeply troubling, but said Maine is not required to change state laws following the Court’s decision.

The cases in question are Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation v. Burwell. They came about when the two companies challenged part of the Affordable Care Act requiring health insurance coverage for a host of women’s health issues, including all FDA-approved contraception. The companies argued that covering certain forms of birth control violated their religious beliefs. Separate federal appeals courts ruled against the companies, finding that corporations are not protected under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Today, the Supreme Court overturned those rulings.

In 2014, the Maine Legislature rejected an attempt to allow employers to use their religion to discriminate. The Coalition said that while today’s decision challenged federal policy, it does not change state laws, and called on the Maine Legislature to continue its history of rejecting discrimination.

The following quotes can be attributed as noted:

Dr. Bets Brown, Public Policy Co-Chair, American Association of University Women (AAUW) of Maine:

“We are truly disappointed in today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. The decision will allow employers to impose their religious beliefs on employees, and employees’ use of contraception is none of their boss’ business. More women will now struggle to access reproductive health care.”

Alison Beyea, Executive Director, ACLU of Maine:

“The Constitution gives us all the right to our religious beliefs, but it does not give individuals the right to impose their beliefs on others. The Court got it wrong in ruling otherwise today.”

Ruth Lockhart, Executive Director, Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center:

Maine has a long history of protecting the rights of women to make the decisions that are best for them, including using birth control so they can decide if and when they have children. We are confident the Maine Legislature and the people of Maine will continue to stand up for that freedom.”

Kate Brogan, Vice President of Public Affairs, Maine Family Planning:

“Although the Court gave bosses the right to take away women’s access to affordable birth control, we are confident most bosses will choose not to, and millions of women will still be able to access the care they need under the ACA.”

Eliza Townsend, Executive Director, Maine Women’s Lobby:

“The Supreme Court did the wrong thing today. A woman’s healthcare decisions should be made with her doctor, not her employer. This is a disappointing example of the importance of the courts in the lives of us all. Courts matter.”

Nicole Clegg, Vice President of Public Policy – Maine, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England:

“Birth control is important preventative health care for women and is used for a variety of health care including endometriosis, migraines, menstrual regulation, and family planning. That’s why we will continue to work to make sure all women have access to affordable birth control without any barriers in their way.”

Rev. Sue Gabrielson, Executive Director, Religious Coalition Against Discrimination:

As diverse people of faith, we are glad to live in a country that protects religious freedom, but this Supreme Court case is not about that freedom. This case is about employers using their personal religious beliefs to interfere in a woman’s personal healthcare decisions. We do not believe that religious freedom should ever be used to discriminate against others or break the law.”

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For more information, contact Kathy Kilrain del Rio at kkilraindelrio@mainewomen.org.

The promise of May flowers has finally brought forth a kaleidoscope of beauty across Maine. New buds, green grass, buzzing bees, and abundant wildlife are reminders of the strength and many gifts of our glorious state. And that vibrancy is infusing the work of all of us at the Maine Women’s Lobby. We’ve been joined by new interns and volunteers who are helping us for the summer. Isabel Mullins has joined the staff of our sister organization, the Maine Women’s Policy Center, as the 2014 Linda Smith Dyer Fellow. And we are busily working on the launch of several new projects. Here’s a glimpse of some of what we’ve been up to this month.

 

MAINE PEOPLE CALL ON THE DEP TO TAKE ACTION ON TOXIC PHTHALATES
Earlier this month, Mainers delivered petitions calling on the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to initiate rule-making on four dangerous phthalates found in products we use every day. The petition was signed by over 2,000 Maine people from every county in our state. Because the DEP has failed to take action on these toxic chemicals, Mainers are using this citizen-initiated petition to force the DEP to consider a common-sense rule to require manufacturers to report the use of four phthalates in products used by Maine kids and pregnant women.

You can help! Sign the online petition to show your support for this rule.

Learn more about phthalates in Maine people inHormones Disrupted.

Read about the delivery of the petition signatures in thisBangor Daily News article.

 THE IMPORTANCE OF REJECTING DANGEROUS JUDICIAL NOMINEES
For the past year, we’ve been sharing lots of reasons why courts matter for us all. Often the media focuses on the U.S. Supreme Court nominees and cases, but decisions made throughout the federal courts system impact every aspect of our lives. That’s why we’re deeply concerned by the nomination of Judge Michael Boggs to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

Prior to becoming a superior court judge, Boggs was a member of the Georgia legislature. While in office he opposed women’s access to constitutionally protected safe and legal reproductive health services, including support of a so-called “personhood” amendment as well as legislation that asserted medically inaccurate information about abortion. He also has a bad record on civil rights – voting to keep the Confederate battle symbol on the state flag and voting to amend the Georgia constitution to ban same-sex marriage. You can read more about Judge Boggs on the NCJW website.

Our federal courts are too important to entrust to someone like Judge Boggs. We expect the Senate to decide on his nomination in June. We’ll be sending an Action Alert when we have more information. In the meantime, you can contact Senator Collins at 202-224-2523 and Senator King at 202-224-5344 to let them know that you don’t support the nomination of Judge Michael Boggs to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

 THE 126th LEGISLATIVE SESSION COMES TO A CLOSE
On May 1st, the Maine legislature took up 48 vetoes by Governor LePage. Two of the biggest disappointments we faced were the failure to override his veto of Medicaid expansion, which would have increased access to health care for nearly 70,000 Mainers, and the failure to override LD 1247, which would have expanded access to family planning services for low-income Maine women. (See the full list of veto votes here.)

But there were many great wins this session, too. We helped defeat an attempt to allow discrimination based on personal religious beliefs. More low-income Mainers have access to critical property tax relief and preventative dental care. We helped create new protections for victims of human trafficking, domestic violence, and sexual assault. We blocked efforts to use anecdotes and stereotypes to score political points at the expense of real Maine people living in poverty – the majority of whom are women and children.

We’ll be sharing our annual Legislative Roll-Call this summer. That’s where we’ll report on how our Senators and Representatives voted on our priorities during the 2014 Legislative Session. Stay tuned!

ECONOMIC SECURITY FOR US ALL – SHARE YOUR STORY
Last fall we launched a conversation about women’s economic security – because when women thrive, Maine thrives. Throughout 2014 we’ll be continuing this important conversation by shining a spotlight on a range of policies that will improve the economic security of Maine’s women and our families. Policies that:
  • recognize the realities of working families in the 21stcentury – like raising the minimum wage, making sure all workers can earn paid sick days, and expanding access to paid family & medical leave;
  • make sure the basic needs of all Mainers are being met by strengthening the safety net and ending attacks on families living in poverty – attacks based on stereotypes, anecdotes, and ideology rather than real facts;
  • increase access to health care – like accepting federal funds to expand Medicaid for nearly 70,000 Maine people, improving access to dental care for low-income Mainers, and making sure Maine women can access the family planning services they need;
  • ensure Maine people have the skills they need to be successful throughout their lives – like increased access to early childhood education and educational programs for adults.

One way you can help is by sharing your story. What policies will help strengthen the economic security of your family? Have you ever been affected by any of the polices mentioned above? Call Danna at 207.622.0851 x21 or email info@mainewomen.org to share your story.

Together we’ll build pathways to prosperity for all Maine people.

 SAVE THE DATES
Maine Women’s Lobby Gala
The Voice of Maine Women – Loud and Clear
Saturday, September 27, 2014
The Portland Club, Portland, ME

Join us as we shine a spotlight on the power of Maine women – our voices, our actions, our leadership. And we’ll honor five inspiring women leaders:

Liz Crandall Spirit Award – Mary Herman
Trailblazer Award – Janet Mills
Catalyst Award – Cheryl Miller
Community Power Award – Zam Zam Mohamud
Spark! Award – Abbie Strout

Sponsorship and Advertising opportunities available. To volunteer, contact Kathy at 207.622.0851 x25 or kkilraindelrio@mainewomen.org.

Gubernatorial Candidates Forum
Thursday, October 9, 2014
Mark your calendar for this opportunity to hear the candidates who want to be Maine’s next governor talk about where they stand on the issues affecting women’s economic security. We’ll share more details soon.
Have you made your annual membership gift yet?
The Maine Women’s Lobby is your voice in the halls of the Maine State House and beyond. We can’t do our work without the support of members from across the state. Your membership gift of $35, $60, $100, or more, will make sure that Maine women and girls are at the table when the policy decisions that affect our lives are being made. Together we will create a future where all women & girls live lives free from violence and discrimination, with access to health care and economic security.

Make your membership gift today.

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Spring is finally here and the legislative session is coming to an end. Soon we’ll be sharing our wrap-up of all the wins and losses for Maine women this session. In this edition of our newsletter, we’ll look at a couple of veto override votes we’ll be watching on May 1st as well as touch on some of our upcoming work.

VETO OVERRIDE DAY – MAY 1ST

Governor LePage has vetoed more bills than any Maine governor. On May 1st, legislators will be voting on the last of the vetoes of this session. That means there is one last chance for you to contact your Maine Representative and Senator and urge them to override the Governor’s veto of two vital bills to expand access to health care for Mainers.

Click on the bill to learn more and take action now.

LD 1578, An Act to Increase Health Security by Expanding Federally Funded Health Care for Maine People

We know you’ve taken action on these issues before, but we need your help one more time. It’s not too late – your voice can still make a difference. You can call or email tonight or in the morning of May 1st tomake sure your legislators know how important it is to you to increase access for women to preventative health care and family planning services. And we still have a chance to pass a bill to expand health care for nearly 70,000 Maine people. Please take a few minutes to raise your voice one more time!

ISABEL MULLIN – THE 2014 LINDA SMITH DYER FELLOW

Each summer, a USM law school student joins the staff of our sister organization, the Maine Women’s Policy Center, as the Linda Smith Dyer Fellow. This year Isabel Mullin has been selected for the fellowship. A native Mainer, Isabel cares greatly about this state and its future. Learn more about Linda Smith Dyer and her legacy at  www.mainewomenspolicycenter.org

When asked about this opportunity, Isabel responded: “The work that the Maine Women’s Policy Center does not only makes a positive difference in the life of individual Maine women, but also has a ripple effect that serves to benefit Maine families, strengthen our economy, and create a brighter future for all Mainers.  I believe this work is critical, especially now, and look forward to contributing to it as the Linda Smith Dyer Fellow.”

Isabel will be researching a variety of issues to help us prepare for our work in 2015 and beyond, as well as looking closely at why the federal courts matter for Mainers. Welcome, Isabel!

TAKING ACTION ON DANGEROUS PHTHALATES

In recent months we’ve told you about the 25 Mainers who volunteered to have their bodies tested for dangerous phthalates. Paige Holmes, one of the participants and a Maine Women’s Lobby board member, wrote about her experiences in this blog post: Careful shopper or not, your body may still be polluted with toxic chemicals

All 25 Mainers had phthalates in their bodies – and some had phthalates at levels significantly higher than the rest of the population across the country. Unfortunately, that isn’t surprising when you discover that phthalates are used in hundreds of products we use every day. From shower curtains to raincoats, lunch boxes to backpacks, shampoo to body lotion – phthalates are widely used by manufacturers today. But consumers usually don’t know if a product contains phthalates because those manufacturers don’t have to share that information with us.

Scientific studies have linked phthalates to many health hazards, including asthma & allergies, birth defects of male genitals, early puberty in girls, learning disabilities, fertility problems, and more. That’s why people from across the state signed a petition to ask the DEP to take action on four phthalates.

On May 14th we’ll be delivering those petitions. To participate in this event, please contact Kathy at 207.622.0851 x25 or  kkilraindelrio@mainewomen.org.

 Learn more about the 25 Mainers who had their bodies tested and about dangerous phthalates in the report, Hormones Disrupted: Toxic Phthalates in Maine People.

SAVE THE DATE – TWO FALL EVENTS

Maine Women’s Lobby Gala
The Voice of Maine Women – Loud and Clear
Saturday, September 27, 2014
The Portland Club, Portland, ME

Join us as we shine a spotlight on the power of Maine women – our voices, our actions, our leadership. We’ll also be honoring five inspiring women leaders:

Liz Crandall Spirit Award – Mary Herman
Trailblazer Award – Janet Mills
Catalyst Award – Cheryl Miller
Community Power Award – Zam Zam Mohamud
Spark! Award – Abbie Strout

Sponsorship and Advertising opportunities available. To volunteer, contact Kathy at 207.622.0851 x25 orkkilraindelrio@mainewomen.org.

Gubernatorial Candidates Forum
Thursday, October 9, 2014

Be sure to mark your calendar for this important event where you will hear from the candidates who want to be Maine’s next governor on where they stand on the issues affecting women’s economic security. We’ll share more details soon.

IN OTHER NEWS…
Eliza Townsend, Executive Director, wrote an op-ed for Equal Pay Day with Representative Erin Herbig (D-Belfast), House chairwoman of the Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic DevelopmentRead The gender pay gap is real, and it shows the US has a lot of catching up to do at the Bangor Daily News.

Paige Holmes, an MWL board member, was featured in an MPBN story about phthalates. Listen & read Maine Health Advocates Take Aim at ‘Phthalates’ on MPBN.

Kathy Kilrain del Rio, Director of Program & Development, spoke at a press conference calling on Walgreens to create an action plan to reduce the use of toxic chemicals in its supply chain. See the story at WGME 13.

Read our print newsletter, The Maine Women’s Advocate, online at  www.mainewomen.org/newslettersmwl.html.

CLEAN ELECTIONS CONFERENCE

Maine Citizens for Clean Elections (MCCE) is holding a one-day conference on May 17th, which will bring together local activists, issue experts, topnotch trainers, and terrific speakers. If you want to learn more about Clean Elections and want to keep the big money from dominating Maine elections, this free conference is for you! The keynote speaker is Jeff Clements, co-founder of Free Speech for People and author of Corporations Are Not People.

Learn more and register at MCCE’s website.

STAY CONNECTED

There are lots of ways to stay connected with the Maine Women’s Lobby. Receive our print newsletter, The Maine Women’s Advocate by emailing us at info@mainewomen.org. Follow us on FacebookTwitter, andPinterest. Read our blog.

Support our work by making a membership gift to the Maine Women’s Lobby: www.mainewomen.org.

 

Become a volunteer by contacting Molly at 207.622.0851 x22 orinfo@mainewomen.org.

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Statement by Eliza Townsend, Executive Director of the Maine Women’s Lobby:

We are relieved to see the Governor’s harmful TANF proposals defeated, but frustrated that the legislature wasted so much time in debating bills that were nothing more than an attempt to score political points on the backs of Maine people living in poverty – most of whom are women and children.

Instead of debating policy based on anecdotes and stereotypes, we call on our elected officials to focus on real solutions that create pathways out of poverty. Those solutions include jobs that pay, investing in Head Start and quality childcare for working parents, restoring property tax relief, increasing the state’s earned income tax credit, and perhaps most importantly, accepting federal funds to increase access to health care for nearly 70,000 Maine people.

It’s time for real leadership on the issues that matter to Maine women and their families. It’s time our elected officials stop scapegoating women who are struggling to support their families – and make no mistake, that’s what this debate was about. It’s time to do the hard work necessary to pass meaningful policies that improve both the lives of Maine people and our state’s economy.

The Maine Women’s Lobby advocates on behalf of Maine’s 678,000 women and girls; focusing on freedom from violence, freedom from discrimination, access to health care, and economic security.

To learn more about specific policy priorities, please direct inquiries to Eliza Townsend at 207.622.0851 x20, etownsend@mainewomen.org; or Kathy Kilrain del Rio at 207.229.0068 x25, kkilraindelrio@mainewomen.org.

 

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