How can we support women’s full participation in Maine’s economy? It is disappointing that in the debates and other rhetoric about Maine’s economy, reference to reproductive rights and health care is rarely included as an important factor in strengthening Maine’s economy.

Yet unintended pregnancies frequently are a factor in unbalancing the state’s budget. According to the Guttmacher Institute, every public dollar spent on contraception saves $3 that would otherwise be spent on Medicaid payments for pregnancy-related and newborn care. That’s the direct expense.

Add to that the fact that untreated reproductive health problems contribute to absenteeism and lost wages for women who are otherwise capable of holding a job.

The expense of child care, especially when a woman or a couple has more than one child, may lead the woman or her partner to drop out of the workforce because he or she may not be able to cover the costs of child care. More dependence on government support is likely.

For all the talk about building a bright future for Maine, unless Maine women have access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care services, they may well not be part of that building process. The result? A dimmer chance for Maine’s future.

In deciding whom to vote for, choose the candidate who will support women’s reproductive health care so all people, women and men, can help build Maine’s future.

Julia Kahrl