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Mainers Go to Washington; Reps. Pingree and Michaud Listen

Our voice matters — and we are grateful to have representatives who will take the time to listen.
Shenna Bellows,
ACLU of Maine
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April 8, 2011

The cherry blossoms and dogwood are blooming in Washington, D.C., so it was not hard to feel happy, especially as I stood with Maine Civil Liberties Union board Vice President Susan Peck and our partners at Planned Parenthood, Meghan Hannan and Tanna Clews, listening to fabulous speakers at the Stand for Women’s Health rally yesterday. So many amazing women (and men!) gathered from all across the country to support family planning and Planned Parenthood. Following the rally, we walked over to the Senate and House office buildings to lobby against budget riders that would strip Planned Parenthood and family planning organizations of vital funding that supports preventative health care for millions of women (and men) across the country.

Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree had just finished up at a hearing in the Armed Services Committee about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Rep. Pingree is a fighter for women’s rights, and we had a long conversation about how all of us can work together to defend women’s health. The congresswoman told us that letters matter in swaying her colleagues all across the Hill to do the right thing. We lost track of time in talking, making us almost 15 minutes late for our meeting with Rep. Mike Michaud.

Rep. Michaud was incredibly gracious and forgiving of our tardiness. He took time to hear our concerns and asked questions about our views on bills like H.R. 3, which would impose a new abortion tax. Really. An abortion tax. You can read all about it here. We also shared our concerns about H.R. 358, a bill that would allow hospitals to deny emergency care to a pregnant woman who needs an abortion even if it would save her life. It’s not pro-life to make it legal for a hospital to refuse to save a woman’s life.

Susan and I were grateful for the time and attention Reps. Pingree and Michaud took to talk to us yesterday. The government funding negotiations between House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and President Barack Obama have not finished yet. We still do not know if the final resolution will eliminate Planned Parenthood or Title X funding. Speaker Boehner is drawing a line in the sand insisting on the inclusion of a number of provisions that all advance a narrow, ideological social agenda – and many of these provisions don’t do a thing to lower the deficit.

A number of those provisions are aimed directly at women’s health and access to reproductive health care — such as funding for Planned Parenthood, and the D.C. abortion ban, which would prohibit D.C. from using local tax dollars to fund abortions for low-income women. Some House Republicans want to use the funding bill to impose the Global Gag Rule, which prohibits funding for international family planning organizations that even discuss abortion as an option with their clients.

It felt important for us to be in Washington, D.C. yesterday. Decisions that get made behind closed doors here in the Capitol affect the lives of millions. Our voice matters…and we are grateful to have representatives who will take the time to listen. Thank you.

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