March News from the Maine Women’s Lobby

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31 Mar 2016

“It is revolutionary for any trans person to choose to be seen and visible in a world that tells us we should not exist.” –Laverne Cox

  • A hateful law that legalizes discrimination against LGBT people under the guise of ‘religious freedom’ became law in North Carolina while similar bills are being considered in more states.
  • One of our nation’s leading presidential candidates said that abortion should be banned even though he knows that would force women to seek illegal, unsafe abortions. He added that women who did seek an abortion under those circumstances should be punished.
  • Here in Maine, corporate lobbyists and most Republican lawmakers continue to oppose and try to weaken the citizen referendum to gradually raise the minimum wage to $12/hour by 2020 and gradually eliminate the subminimum tipped wage by 2024.

Those are just a few of the many attacks we saw in March on civil rights, personal autonomy, and people struggling to make ends meet. Sometimes it feels like the threats to our rights and well-being are never ending.

But when we get discouraged, you give us renewed hope and determination. Every day there are Maine people standing up for what is right. Every day Mainers have the courage to share their stories. Every day our members and neighbors stand up and speak out to make a better future. We’re highlighting some of those stories in this edition of our newsletter. And we’ll tell you about opportunities for you to take action as well as share more information about some of the current issues facing women here in Maine and across the nation.



This week the Maine Legislature passed LD 1477,An Act To Protect Victims of Sexual Assault. This bill would help reduce barriers for victims of sexual assault who wish to raise their child and have the parental rights of the person who raped them terminated. It’s now on the governor’s desk. Read this op-ed from the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault to learn more: A woman shouldn’t have to co-parent with the man who raped her.

Over the past five years, our state has seen a 50% increase in the number of children living in extreme poverty (the sharpest increase in the nation). Maine has the highest rate of food insecurity for children in New England, and we’re the third highest state in the country for very low food security. Approximately 40,000 Mainers have lost their MaineCare coverage and our state is the only one to see a statistically significant increase in the number of children without health insurance.

There is a bill being considered this session that would help reverse this dire course and provide real opportunity for Maine families struggling with poverty. LD 1268, An Act To Reform Welfare by Establishing Bridges to Sustainable Employment,would increase access to transitional jobs programs and the Parents as Scholars Program, provide housing vouchers to promote housing stability for families at risk of homelessness, and promote government accountability to ensure that programs are actually working to reduce poverty.

Legislators will soon be voting on a bill to increase access to oral health care. If passed, LD 1514 will align Maine’s dental hygiene therapy law with the new national accreditation standards, providing dentists the opportunity to have their practice reach underserved and un-served populations with Dental Hygiene Therapists providing routine care. This will make it easier for children, pregnant & postpartum women, and seniors to access needed oral health care. You can contact your legislators about this bill by clicking on and entering your address.

Bills that would strengthen protections for victims of trafficking, improve the safety of childcare in our state, expand access to health care for nearly 70,000 Mainers, and ensure the safety of home births are still being considered by the legislature. As the legislative session nears its end, we’ll be sharing more opportunities for you to take action.



In the history of our country, the Senate has never refused to give a Supreme Court nominee a hearing. And the Senate has confirmed nominees of Presidents from an opposing party in an election year. For example, Justice Kennedy was nominated by President Reagan and confirmed by a Democratic Senate, in a presidential election year, by a vote of 97-0. There’s no excuse for GOP Senators on the Judiciary Committee to not hold a hearing for Judge Garland, President Obama’s nominee for the current vacancy.

That’s why we called on Senator Collins to ask her colleagues on the Judiciary Committee and in Senate Leadership to do the right thing and let the nomination process move forward. Many of you joined us by signing a petition sent to her earlier this month. If you didn’t get a chance to sign the petition, you can contact her office by calling 202-224-2523 to thank her for her public statements and ask her to talk to her colleagues to urge them to let the nomination process work.

GOP Senator: ‘No Basis’ For Republicans To Block Obama’s SCOTUS Nominee

Myths vs. Facts on Filling the Supreme Court Vacancy from the Alliance for Justice

Two cases heard by the Supreme Court in March illustrate why we need it to be at full strength.Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt will decide if a Texas TRAP law is constitutional. Anti-abortion TRAP laws force women’s health centers that provide reproductive health care to close through unnecessary and burdensome regulations. Zubik v. Burwell involves women’s access to birth control under the Affordable Care Act. If the court splits with a 4-to-4 decision in either case, crucial legal issues affecting large numbers of people will remain unresolved.

To learn more about these cases, check out these pieces:

Why I’m not shy about telling the Supreme Court about my abortion by Andrea Irwin, executive director of Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center and MWL board member

As Supreme Court considers Texas abortion case, protesters rally in Portland

The Women Take Over: In oral arguments for the Texas abortion case, the three female justices upend the Supreme Court’s balance of power.

Religion and Birth Control at the Supreme Court



It was an honor to receive a Community Pollinator award from the Southern Maine Workers’ Center at their Annual Meeting. The award recognized our work with SMWC on the new minimum wage ordinance in Portland. In case you missed it, Portland is the first city in the northeast to raise its minimum wage. Beginning on January 1, 2016, the minimum wage increased to $10.10/hour. It will increase to $10.68/hour in 2017, with future increases tied to inflation. You can read more about the SMWC event at

On April 6th at the Alamo Theater in Bucksport, Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center will hold LUNAFEST, a traveling film festival of award-winning short films by, for and about women– filled with stories of reflection, hope, and humor. Get the details at

Next week Hardy Girls Healthy Women will hold its annual Girls Rock! Weekend. It kicks off with the Girls Rock! Awards at Colby College on April 7th—an inspiring event that amplifies the voices of brave and amazing girls throughout our state. That’s followed by The Girls Rock! Conference, an event planned BY girls FOR girls. There are two opportunities to participate in the conference: in Waterville from 9 AM – 1PM on April 8th, and in Portland from 9 AM – 1PM on April 10th. Learn more about these great events and all HGHW does at

The Maine Women’s Fund 2016 Leadership Luncheon will be held on May 18th in Portland: If you’re there, be sure to stop by the Maine Women’s Policy Center table. We’re excited and grateful to again be an MWF grantee.



These news stories highlight some of the issues we’ve been working on:

Eliza Townsend, our executive director, spoke about the need for employees to be able to earn paid sick days in Workers grapple with lack of paid sick leave.

She also spoke about the challenges facing the ‘sandwich generation’ and how increased access to paid leave would help in Caring for children, aging parents puts squeeze on workers.

Kathy Kilrain del Rio, our director of program & development, joined Jennifer Thibodeau of Maine Family Planning to write Our leaders should respond to public health crises like Zika with facts, not fear.

The growing number of anti-abortion laws across the country have serious consequences for women. Read more in The Return of the D.I.Y. Abortion.

Today was the Transgender Day of Visibility and the first Trans Day at the Maine State House. There were several powerful speeches in the Hall of Flags and you can watch them on YouTube:Trans Day at the Maine State House (video credit: Andi Parkinson).

Katie Logue spoke about her concerns as the mom of a transgender boy. Her story highlights why ending discrimination against transgender people is also a reproductive justice issue. All parents should be able to raise their children without fear of violence or discrimination. Click here to read Katie’s remarks.

The Need for Paid Leave and Paid Sick Days:

Life in the Only Industrialized Country Without Paid Maternity Leave

Paid sick leave movement advancing

Maine Families Struggling to Move Out of Poverty:

Maine’s welfare policies have taken a turn, with dire consequences for kids

LePage’s grave disservice to Maine’s poorest

State must end shameful food stamp policies that worsen hunger problem

How Maine has quietly undermined help for its neediest

How Punitive Public Policies are Hurting Poor Families in Maine

Working to Raise Maine’s Minimum Wage:

Corporate lobbyists make major math error, have accidentally been arguing for $12 minimum wage

Take it from tipped workers, not their bosses: Increase the minimum wage



The Maine Women’s Lobby is in the halls of the statehouse advocating for policies that will improve the lives of Maine women and our families—and we’re standing against efforts to weaken the gains we’ve made together over the years. If you want to make sure there continues to be a strong voice for Maine women and girls when policy decisions are being made in Augusta and beyond, please consider making a monthly gift to support our mission.

When you make a monthly donation of $5, $10, $20 or more, you help sustain our work all year long. Donate online at or call us at 207-622-0851 x2.

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