Maine Family Planning’s fifth annual Birds & the Bees Spring Soiree raised $64,000 with a New Orleans-themed event at Portland Country Club in Falmouth on May 5.

“I think all women deserve access to strong family planning, regardless of where they live and their socioeconomic background,” said host committee member Stacy Stitham, mingling with 185 Maine Family Planning supporters. “These things are in jeopardy, so it’s important to be sure there’s enough funding to bring healthcare to every Mainer.”

The event included live music by the State Street Traditional Jazz Band, New Orleans-style hors d’oeuvres, Sazeracs at the bar and a raffle for a trip to New Orleans – won by Richard and Bridget Whiting of Auburn.

Amid this festive atmosphere, the focus was on raising money to ensure that all Maine people have access to high-quality, affordable reproductive health and recognizing achievements, including having one of the lowest teen pregnancy rates in the nation.

Board President Marcia DeGeer welcomed the crowd, saying, “Like you, I look for ways, large and small, privately and publicly, to support Maine women and teens as they try to control their reproductive futures – when they will have children, how many they will have and under what circumstances they will have them.”

DeGeer outlined some of the work Maine Family Planning is doing: operating 18 health clinics, bringing sex education to high schools and providing contraceptives for 23,000 Maine women and teens a year.

A highlight of the evening was a humorously rhyming presentation by Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights (GRR!), who were honored with the Sherry and David Huber Award for Outstanding Contributions to Reproductive Health.

“I don’t think any of us in the pro-choice community could have anticipated the phenomenon that GRR! would become,” said Maine Family Planning Chief Executive Officer George Hill. “Yes, they grab your attention at public hearings, marches and demonstrations with their trademark canary yellow T-shirts. And yet, these grandmothers with their years of lived experience and harsh lessons, are not simply props in a photo op. They are unafraid, they are well-informed, they are well-organized, they are collaborative, and they are formidable because they came of age at a time when access to birth control, reproductive health care and abortion was either severely limited or nonexistent.”

GRR! founder Judy Kahrl said, “I know that it makes an enormous difference in women’s lives when they can choose whether they have a child and when they have a child and be able to raise a child in a safe environment. It’s as much about control as it about abortion. And access to contraception reduces abortion.”

“When we were in high school and college, we saw too many lives ruined and people dying,” added GRR! member Joan Smith of Phippsburg, prompting several GRR! members to tell their own stories of girls who went “away” or chose to have unsafe, illegal abortions and, either way, didn’t come back.

“Younger generations don’t remember,” said state Rep. Jay McCreight, D-Harpswell. “But we’re trying to protect what was so hard-won with Roe v. Wade.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

[email protected]

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