Each year, Maine’s Legislature considers many pieces of legislation that can help Maine families build a life and thrive. It is rare that one piece of legislation will achieve several different important policy aims: saving lives, developing critical infrastructure and creating economic stability. A bill that checks each of those boxes is before the Legislature right now.

L.D. 1478 would increase funding for Maine family planning services; it passed the Legislature last spring and is waiting for funding in the budget process.

The state’s family planning providers serve tens of thousands of Mainers annually. With more than 60 sites across the state, these providers offer essential care, including contraception, screening, diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections and cancers, pregnancy care, vasectomies, behavior health care, primary care and more.

I am one of many Mainers who receives the vast majority of my own health care from family planning clinics in Maine. These services have been my health care rock when I have been employed and when I was out of work – for everything from annual screenings to critical health care to manage a miscarriage. And I am not alone.

Family planning services are essential to our state’s public health infrastructure. Yet even with the knowledge of how powerful and economically important it is, the investment in this community-changing work has remained flat for a decade. That needs to change.

Family planning saves lives. By one estimate, providing contraception to 90% of those in need around the world would save the lives of 67,000 women and 440,000 infants annually, because doing so would prevent unwanted, high-risk pregnancies and unsafe abortions.


Family planning also increases economic security. The ability to decide when to have children can reduce the gap in pay between working mothers and their childless peers, and planned pregnancies can reduce women’s chances of needing public assistance.

Women living in states with greater access to reproductive health care have higher incomes, are less likely to work part time, are more likely to move from unemployment into employment, and face less occupational segregation (when one demographic is under- or overrepresented in an industry, often resulting in lower pay) than women in states with fewer reproductive health care options.

The benefits of this care aren’t limited to women. For every $1 invested in family planning programs, federal and state governments save an estimated $4.83 in Medicaid expenditures and $12 billion per year – in part because contraception prevents unintended pregnancies.

Funding for family planning helps increase health care access for people across the state. In particular, rural Mainers and people from historically excluded communities (people of color and LGBTQ+ folks) turn to family planning clinics for the majority of their essential health care needs.

In Maine (and across the country) there is a dramatic and gendered underinvestment in systems like these. Work that seems focused on the needs of women and girls gets dramatically less funding than other initiatives. The U.S. is one of the last developed countries to offer paid family and medical leave, a significant policy lever to keep women in the workforce (though Maine became the 13th state to create this program just last year). The child care crisis is the result of decades of underinvestment in “women’s work,” (though child care is for everyone).

We need the kind of investment that changes – and saves – lives. Family planning services are that kind of investment.

It’s time to recognize what moves the needle – on public health, on gender equity, and on racial and geographic equity – and center our budget on those needs. I’m working to do everything I can to support these investments, and I hope our Legislature will join me and thousands of others by funding family planning services for Maine communities.

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