We didn’t let the snow or cold slow us down this month because the legislative session was heating up and we had so much to do. With winter fully upon us, these words by Louisa May Alcott come to mind: “Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.” The sunshine may seem far away at times, but even in winter it shines. We’ll believe in a future where all women and girls can live our lives free from violence and discrimination, with access to a full range of health care, and real economic security. And with your help, that future won’t be too far away.


As the 127th Legislative Session proceeds, more bills are being printed, public hearings are being held, and we’re having lots of conversations with legislators about issues that matter to Maine women and our families. Following are some of the issues we’re working on now. If you’d like to help us on these or other issues, let us know by completing the MWL Interest Form at bit.ly/MWLinterests.

The Budget

A major focus of this session is the governor’s proposed budget. The Appropriations Committee has been holding joint hearings with other committees as the committee members examine the many aspects of the budget. In the first week of March, we’ll be testifying on areas of the budget affecting immigrants and early childhood programs. You’ve probably read that the governor has been trying to cut programs that provide vital assistance to asylum seekers in Maine—programs like General Assistance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and SNAP (also known as food stamps). On Feb. 3rd, Gov. LePage further attacked immigrants when he made offensive and misleading remarks about immigrants in his State of the State address. Both thePortland Press Herald and Bangor Daily News wrote about the facts that show the data doesn’t support the governor’s remarks.

Maine’s immigrants are an important part of our state’s economic future. While we should be working to support new Mainers, the governor’s proposed budget would eliminate benefits for lawfully present immigrants and their families. Asylum seekers come to the U.S. because they are fleeing persecution and violence. They have to wait a minimum of six months and often much longer before they are legally allowed to work. Programs like GA, TANF, and SNAP provide support for housing, food, heat, and medicine for asylum seekers and their families. Denying these basic necessities goes against the values of Maine people.

It’s just common sense that investing in early childhood programs is investing in our future. The first five years of a child’s life are critical in shaping the architecture of the brain. Early childhood programs provide children with a foundation for academic success as well as long term social and emotional benefits. And home visiting programs support new parents in understanding their child’s developmental and physical needs. In addition to the benefits to Maine children, studies show that our state will see savings in remedial education, health, and corrections spending.  It’s imperative that we provide adequate funding for these programs in the budget.

Other Legislation

Last month we told you about some of the bills we will be focused on passing or defeating this year. If you missed our January News, you can read it on our blog here. This month we’re writing about some bills that will come up soon. On Thursday, the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence and the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault spoke at a press conference with legislators from both sides of the political aisle about a bill that would criminalize nonconsensual pornography, also known as revenge porn. An Act to Prohibit the Unauthorized Distribution of Certain Private Images sponsored by Rep. Fredette (R-Newport) with bipartisan support, would make it illegal to distribute explicit material if the identifiable people in the material haven’t consented to its distribution. Nationally, 93% of victims of revenge porn have suffered significant emotional distress, and 49% have been harassed or stalked online by those who had seen their material.

We’ll also be working on a variety of bills that affect women’s economic security. We’ll be supporting bills that would increase the minimum wage, protect workers from unfair scheduling practices, eliminate the tipped minimum wage, and much more. Are these issues that matter to you? Let us know by completing our online interest form:bit.ly/MWLinterests. And keep your eyes on your inbox because we’ll be asking for your help as these and many other bills move through the legislative process.


19th Annual Girls’ Day at the State House

Thursday, March 5th

This annual event brings together 100 eighth grade girls from across the state to Augusta to learn about women’s leadership and how policy decisions that affect our lives are made.

Hardy Girls Healthy Women Parenting Webinar Series

Wednesday, March 11th

We’ll discuss best practices, tools, tips, and techniques to help with activism for legislation, the media, and in your community. Learn more at http://hghw.org/parenting-webinar-series/.


Maine Alliance for Reproductive Freedom Lobby Day

Monday, March 30th

Join us at the Maine State House for a day focused on the reproductive justice issues we’re working on at the legislature this year.

Maine Women’s Summit on Economic Security

Friday, October 16th

Augusta Civic Center

Stay tuned for more details.


This month we celebrated the 22nd Anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act, the law that provided American workers with up to 12 weeks unpaid leave. It was a landmark piece of legislation when President Clinton signed it into law, but as we heard President Obama say during his State of the Union address last month, America lags behind almost every country on the planet when it comes to offering paid maternity leave. We need to make sure that everyone has access to paid family & medical leave so that we can all meet our responsibilities both at home and at work. Whether it is taking care of a new child, a loved one with a serious medical problem, or recovering from an illness ourselves, most workers can’t afford to take leave under FMLA because we can’t afford to take unpaid leave. Read more about paid leave in Family Leave: A View from the Future from our national partners at Family Values @ Work.

And the same is true for the millions of workers—mostly those working in hands-on jobs like food service, retail, childcare, and elder care—who can’t earn even a single paid sick day. No one should have to choose between a paycheck and staying home to get well when they have the flu or need to care for a sick child. It’s not only good for workers and their families; it’s good for business, too. That’s why more and more cities and states across the country are passing legislation to expand access to earned paid sick days.

We’re part of the Family Values @ Work coalition because we know how important it is for all workers to have access to paid family & medical leave and paid sick days. There are two bills that have been proposed in Congress to make these issues a reality: The Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act and the Healthy Families Act (HFA). If you want to help work on these issues, go to bit.ly/MWLinterests to let us know.


Next week, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell. This case will decide whether people can continue receiving premium tax credits for health coverage purchased through the federally-run health insurance Marketplaces. Women and our families have a lot at stake. Because we earn lower wages than men, suffer from higher rates of poverty, are less likely to be offered health insurance on the job, nearly seven million women—including 33,700 women in Maine—will no longer be able to afford health care if the court makes a negative decision in this case. That’s why the Maine Women’s Lobby signed onto an amicus brief in the King v. Burwell case.

According to the National Women’s Law Center:

  • An estimated 2.5 million low and middle-income women who hold health coverage through the federally-facilitated marketplaces in their states could lose eligibility for premium tax credits. On average, these tax credits cover three-quarters of their health insurance premiums.
  • Nearly 7 million women — including many who have not yet enrolled in coverage — could lose eligibility for tax credits, simply because they live in states that rely on the federal government to run their health insurance marketplace.
  • Approximately 3.5 million women — that is, half of all women who could lose tax credit eligibility —are women of color.

It’s frustrating to see the Affordable Care Act under yet another attack because it is working for Maine people. And it is important to note that while the Supreme Court is considering the King v. Burwell case, there is no risk to your tax credits. For more information about health care coverage in our state, check out Maine Consumers for Affordable Health Care.


We have talked a lot about the importance of raising the minimum wage as a key tool for increasing financial security for Maine women and our families. Just a few facts about who is affected:

  • In Maine, more than 6 in 10 minimum wage workers are women.
  • 85% of Maine workers who would be impacted by raising the minimum wage are over 20 years old.
  • More than 75% of women over the age of 16, and 62% of women over the age of 25 who earn the minimum wage do not have a spouse’s income to supplement their own.

That’s why last year we were happy to see that Portland was considering raising the city’s minimum wage. The Finance Committee will again consider the proposed wage increase in March. If you want to see a positive change for low-wage workers in Portland, we need your support. If you live in or own a business in Portland and would like to help, contact Kathy at 207-622-0851 x3 or kkilraindelrio@mainewomen.org.

President Obama spoke about the need for a higher minimum wage during his State of the Union address when he said, “If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, try it.  If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.” Here in Maine, in addition to Portland, Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci has proposed a minimum wage increase, and the Maine Legislature will be considering legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage. Visit bit.ly/MWLinterests to let us know about your interest in this and other economic security issues.




It’s impossible for us to share all our news in our monthly newsletter—so much is always happening. But you can get even more updates by following us on Facebook and Twitter. Is there a particular legislative issue that you want to be involved with? Make sure we know by completing our survey at bit.ly/MWLinterests or by contacting Molly at 207-622-0851 x2 or mbogart@mainewomen.org.

The only way we’re able to do so much in our four focus areas—freedom from violence, freedom from discrimination, access to health care, and economic security—is with the support of our members. When you make a membership gift of $35, $60, $100, or more, you help ensure that we are at the statehouse and beyond when decisions that affect the lives of Maine women and our families are being made. Make a donation today atbit.ly/mwldonate.

If you have any questions about the issues and events in this edition ofNews from the Maine Women’s Lobby, feel free to contact Kathy at 207-622-0851 x3 or kkilraindelrio@mainewomen.org. We love to hear from you!

It’s hard to believe we are already through the first month of 2015. For us, this month was focused on the start of the 127th Legislative Session as well as making plans for the year. There’s a lot to share with you this month – and we’ll be sharing even more as the legislative session moves forward.


On January 20th, more than 70 women came to Augusta to participate in Maine Women’s Day at the State House. Participants had an opportunity to connect with the Maine Women’s Lobby and a variety of organizations such as Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center,Maine Centers for Women, Work, and Community, ACLU of Maine, Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, AAUW Maine, Maine Family Planning, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, and Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights. They also had a chance to learn more about the legislative priorities for both coalitions during an Issues Briefing Session in the Welcome Center. And in the afternoon, three workshops gave participants a chance to delve more deeply into Working for Reproductive Justice, The ABC’s of Lobbying Your Legislators, and Effectively Communicating Your Message.

During a press conference in the Hall of Flags, the coalitions announced their legislative priorities, which include increasing access to women’s health care services, strengthening workplace protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, making sure Maine families have access to robust early childhood programs, and ending the shackling of pregnant inmates. Read more at Coalition for Maine Women & Maine Choice Coalition 2015 Legislative Priorities.

The coalitions also made clear that they will work to stop any attempts to undermine the gains women have seen over the years. As Ruth Lockhart, Executive Director of Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center, stated during the press conference, “Women are vital to our society and economy, and when women thrive, Maine thrives. For those reasons we will oppose wrong-headed bills that take us backwards. As we have for decades, we will oppose any effort to undermine a woman’s autonomy over her own reproduction. Once again this year we will oppose any attempt to abridge our civil rights, including granting exemption from state laws based on religious objection. And we will oppose efforts that demonize people who need our help.” Read more on our blog.


When the new legislative session kicked off earlier this month, Danna Hayes, MWL Director of Public Policy, was there. While we are still reviewing the more than 1,500 bills that have been submitted this year by Maine legislators and the administration, we wanted to give you a quick look at some of the issues we know will be addressed over the next six months.

In addition to the issues we highlighted at Maine Women’s Day at the State House, we will be supporting efforts to raise the minimum wage, increase access to health care – including dental health care, strengthening the Kid-Safe Products Act, strengthening the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and helping seniors age in place. And we will be working to defeat anti-choice legislation, a dangerous bill that would allow people to use their personal religious beliefs to break laws meant to protect us all, efforts to deny General Assistance to new Mainers who are seeking asylum in our country, and policies that hurt the economic security of women and children living in poverty – policies that are based on stereotypes and anecdotes rather than the real experiences of families struggling to get by.

We’ll be sharing more details about these and many other proposals as more bills are printed and legislative hearings are scheduled. If you would like to help us work on any of these issues, there are many different ways to get involved. Tell us you want to help by contacting us at 207-622-051 x2 or at info@mainewomen.org to talk to us about the issues that matter most to you.


For almost two decades, the Maine Women’s Policy Center has been bringing 100 eighth grade girls from across the state to Augusta to learn about the importance of women’s leadership and how the public policy decisions get made. The 19th Annual Girls’ Day at the State House will happen on Thursday, March 5, 2015. There are several ways you can help make it a successful day for the girls who participate:

  • Become a mentor. Our volunteer mentors spend the day with a group of ten girls – we can’t do the day without them.
  • Volunteer for part of the day. If you can’t spend the entire day with us, you can still help out. Spend either the morning or the afternoon with us to lend a helping hand.
  • Be a Girls’ Day sponsor. If you or your business would like to make a financial contribution to support this special day, email mbogart@mainewomen.org or call 207-622-0851 x2.

These words from 2014 participant Rebecca, a Waterville student, about her experience last year sum up what makes Girls’ Day such an important event each year:  “You should never let anyone stop you from speaking out and following your dreams.”


Together, we gathered signatures in every county in the state. We packed the public hearing and outnumbered the corporate lobbyists 50 to 1. We flooded the DEP’s mailboxes with thousands of comments. With your help, we’re gaining ground. The citizen-initiated rule that you helped put before the Maine Department of Environmental Protection will force big companies to disclose the use of phthalates in a handful of key materials that kids are exposed to in homes, schools and childcare facilities. That’s a big win, and we couldn’t have done it without you!

Unfortunately, it’s not all good news. The DEP took a red pen to the rule and excluded products that expose pregnant women to phthalates from the DEP’s revised rule. This leaves pregnant women completely in the dark about which products are safer and which could cause harm. Maine lawmakers designed a system to follow the science, not cherry-pick facts to protect the chemical industry.

This is not the first time the DEP has chosen to narrow the focus of a rule to suit the chemical industry and product makers rather than protect the health of Maine people. That’s why we’re turning to our law-makers to get the job done… not just on phthalates, but on all chemicals that threaten the health of Maine families. We’ll be working to pass legislation to strengthen the Kid-Safe Products Act this year. We’ll be sharing more details soon – and if you would like to help work on this issue, contact Kathy at 207-622-0851 x3 or kkilraindelrio@mainewomen.org.

Learn more with these pieces featuring our own Kathy Kilrain del Rio:

MPBN: Critics: Maine’s Proposed Rules on Phthalates Fall Short

Portland Press Herald: Draft rule to protect Mainers from phthalates weakened by state DEP


As you know, we’ve been working with the Cover Maine Now coalition to bring new federal funds to Maine to cover tens of thousands of uninsured Mainers. Accepting these federal dollars, which have already been set aside to cover Maine’s uninsured, will benefit all Maine people and boost Maine’s economy.

It’s truly a win-win – but to make it happen, we need your help. The Legislature is currently considering the plan, and they need to know that you support it.

Please sign our petition to show your support.

Accepting federal funds will save lives and save money. We know that you want us to continue to fight for this plan, which would provide health coverage to more than 69,500 Mainers and save taxpayer dollars by fully expanding MaineCare. Sign the petition today.


We already knew that President Obama supports many of the policies that we featured inBuilding a Prosperous Maine: A Roadmap to Economic Security for Maine Women and Their Families because some of those policies were the focus of the White House Summit on Working Families last June. But it was great to hear him draw national attention to theimportance of raising the minimum wage, making sure workers can earn paid sick days, ending the disgrace of America being one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t ensure paid family leave, and increasing access to affordable, high-quality childcareduring his State of Union address to Congress on January 20th. Watch the address atwww.whitehouse.gov/sotu or read it here.

We will continue to work for these polices and you can help. Do you have a story about how the lack of paid sick days or paid family & medical leave has affected your family? We want to hear from you. Are you willing to write a letter to the editor, write and op-ed, contact lawmakers, or take other action as opportunities arise? Let us know. Call Kathy at 207-622-0851 x3 or email kkilraindelrio@mainewomen.org.


We’ve written before about the importance of the federal courts. Over the next few months, we’ll be focusing on some of the ways they impact our lives. This infographic highlights the ways the courts matter for reproductive rights.

Go to whycourtsmatter.org/issues/reproductiverights to see the full infographic and learn more about the connection between women’s access to reproductive health care and the federal courts. You can stay up to date on what’s happening with the federal courts by searching for the #CourtsMatter hashtag – and by connecting with us on Twitter andFacebook.


We’re so grateful for the support of our members across the state. Earlier this week, we shared 15 reasons to support the Maine Women’s Lobby in 2015 (read the list here). Support from members like you has allowed MWL to be the voice of Maine women in the halls of the statehouse and beyond for over 35 years. Please consider making a gift of $15 for 2015 today. Visit bit.ly/mwldonate, call 207-622-0851 x2, or mail your check to Maine Women’s Lobby at 124 Sewall St., Augusta, ME 04430.

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  • Women are 51% of the population, but are underrepresented at every level of government where policy decisions that affect our lives are made.
  • On the first day of the new Congressional session, the majority party chose to fight for restrictions on abortion services as its top priority.
  • And once again we need to fight bad bills in the Maine legislature that would restrict access to abortion.
  • Last year we helped defeat a dangerous bill that would have allowed people to use their religious beliefs to break laws meant to protect us all. It’s back.
  • Nearly 70,000 Maine people still can’t access the health care they need because obstructive politicians chose ideology over good health and economic common sense. But there’s still time for Maine to act.
  • Too many politicians and people in the media use stereotypes and anecdotes to talk about policies that affect women and children living in poverty rather than looking at the real people struggling to get by.
  • In Maine, more than 6 in 10 minimum wage workers are women and they need a raise.
  • More than 80% of low-wage workers can’t earn a single paid sick day – most are women who have frequent public contact in jobs such as food service, child care, elder care, and retail.
  • Only 12% of the American workforce has access to paid leave.
  • While the data overwhelmingly demonstrates the importance of early childhood programs, more than 11,000 Maine kids do not have access to Head Start due to underfunding.
  • Too many women and children still can’t live their lives free from violence.
  • Sexual assaults happen every day, and too often our culture blames the victims rather than the perpetrators.
  • Maine is the only state in New England that doesn’t have a policy against shackling pregnant inmates.
  • Maine women only earn 79 cents for every dollar made by their male counterparts.
  • We’re your voice in the halls of the statehouse and beyond when decisions about issues like these are being made.

For over 35 years, we’ve stood up for a full range of issues that affect the lives of women and our families. Your gift of $15 for 2015 will help make sure we continue to be your voice when the future of Maine women and girls is on the line.

Make a Donation Today

Become a Loyal Lobbyist and support our work all year long.  It’s simple. Make a recurring donation of $5, $15, $25 or whatever fits your budget. Just select ‘recurring donation’ when you make your gift online, or call 207-622-0851 x2 to talk to someone about your gift.

Thank you for your support!

Eliza, Danna, Kathy, and Molly


Ruth Lockhart, executive Director of Mabel Wadsworth Women's Health Center, speaks about the coalitions' legislative priorities.

Ruth Lockhart, executive Director of Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center, speaks about the coalitions’ legislative priorities.

On Tuesday, January 2oth, the Coalition for Maine Women and the Maine Choice Coalition held Maine Women’s Day at the State House – an annual event that highlights the importance of issues that affect women and our families at the start of the legislative session. Participants had a chance to learn more about those issues at an Issue Briefing Session in the Welcome Center and could participate in workshops in the afternoon.

The coalitions also announced their legislative priorities at a press conference in the Hall of Flags. The following press release tells more about those legislative priorities and the coalitions. To learn more about the priorities, download a summary: 2015 Coalition for Maine Women and Maine Choice Coalition Legislative Priorities.

To help work on these issues, contact Molly at 207-622-0851 x2 or mbogart@mainewomen.org.



Maine Women Voice Support for Issues that Matter Most to Them

Coalitions Announce Priority Legislation at State House Press Conference

AUGUSTA – Members of the Coalition for Maine Women the Maine Choice Coalition announced their legislative priorities at State House press conference today. The press conference was part of the annual Women’s Day at the State House, which provides training for Maine women to participate in the democratic process.

The coalitions announced support for bills that would ban the shackling of pregnant women; expand funding for reproductive health care and family planning services; subsidize child care, Head Start and home visits for some families; and ensure that victims of domestic and sexual assault are able to take protected leave from work. The coalitions also announced that they would oppose efforts by some legislators to make it harder for women to access abortion care.

The following quotes can be attributed as noted:

Oamshri Amarasingham, public policy counsel, ACLU of Maine: “Women constitute the fastest growing population of incarcerated people, and the number of women in Maine’s prisons has increased six-fold since 2002. Yet while the number of women in our criminal justice system has skyrocketed, our ability to provide them with appropriate conditions has failed to keep up. Ending the shackling of pregnant women will protect the health of women and their pregnancies.”

Claire Berkowitz, executive director, Maine Children’s Alliance: “Child development experts have demonstrated that the most critical development of a child’s brain happens within the first five years of life. We know that our support of strong early childhood programming will not only bolster our state’s economic recovery, but provide economic security for future generations as well. Inadequate or inaccessible child care means that parents cannot obtain or maintain gainful employment, leaving them vulnerable to falling into poverty. Despite the research on its benefits to families and communities, the early childhood programming that would support Maine’s children continues to go underfunded. Today, we are calling on our elected leaders to make early childhood programming a priority this session. The future of our state depends on it.”

Julia Colpitts, executive director, Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence: “Economic reality – having no money or no housing – keeps many victims of violence from leaving their abuser, and can force them to return. Having a job is a first step to independence and safety. A victim’s employment is vital to building economic security and creating safety for them and for their children. Victims who want to work, to create new and sustainable lives don’t want to lose their job or be dependent on social welfare resources. This legislation will help them be successful on that economic path to safety by retaining their right to work through the crisis of violence.”

Ruth Lockhart, executive director, Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center: “Women are vital to our society and economy, and when women thrive, Maine thrives. For those reasons we will oppose wrong-headed bills that take us backwards. As we have for decades, we will oppose any effort to undermine a woman’s autonomy over her own reproduction. Once again this year we will oppose any attempt to abridge our civil rights, including granting exemption from state laws based on religious objection. And we will oppose efforts that demonize people who need our help.”

Helen Regan, Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights: “Why hasn’t Maine taken advantage of an indirect, but proven way to support women in their search for job training and employment? Expansion of access to family planning services to women whose health care does not currently cover contraception will give them the tools they need to avoid unintended pregnancies known to be a huge setback for those seeking to support themselves and their families. Let’s take action that helps women help themselves.”

The Coalition for Maine Women is a diverse network of organizations working to improve the social, economic, and political status of women and to promote the equality of all Maine citizens.

The Maine Choice Coalition is a coalition of organizations and individuals working together to ensure that all Mainers have access to abortion and have the economic, social and political power and resources to make their own decisions about their bodies, sexuality, reproductive health, and families. 


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In his State of the City address earlier this year, Portland Mayor Michael Brennan said that he wanted to explore raising the city’s minimum wage to help address growing inequality. After months of meetings, you have a chance to have your voice heard on the proposed increase this week.

On Thursday, December 11, 2014 at 6:00 PM, the Finance Committee of the Portland City Council will hold a public hearing and the public will be able to speak. The proposed minimum wage increase would raise Portland’s minimum wage from $7.50 to $9.50 in 2015, to $10.10 in 2016, and to $10.68 in 2017. It will also index the minimum wage to inflation going forward from 2017. It would only apply to workers who are 18 years old and over.

We are excited about the possibility of Portland’s lowest wage workers getting a much needed and much deserved raise. However, we are also very concerned about the exemption of workers under the age of 18. We know that there are many at-risk and vulnerable teens who are already struggling with homelessness or working to help support their families. By excluding these workers from a wage increase, we fear more teens will be at risk of homelessness and put in other vulnerable situations.

The Maine Women’s Lobby will be at the hearing to support the plan to raise the minimum wage and tie it to inflation, but we will also call on the Finance Committee to include workers under 18 years old.

Portland Finance Committee
Thursday, December 11, 2014
6:00 PM
Council Chambers of City Hall
389 Congress St., Portland

Do you want to make your voice heard on Thursday evening? If you plan to attend the committee hearing, email Kathy at kkilraindelrio@mainewomen.org and we’ll make sure you have the information you need to speak on this proposal.


We hope to see you there!
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