Maine women lobby for economic fairness, reproductive freedom

Maine women lobby for economic fairness, reproductive freedom

Dozens of Maine women dressed in red took to the halls of the Capitol on Thursday to show their support for a range of bills to improve economic security for women and their families and provide greater access to health care. Women’s Day at the State House participants also pledged to stand against any attack on women’s rights and in favor of a budget that helps to move Mainers out of poverty.

“We support these legislative priorities because these issues significantly impact Mainers living in poverty, Mainers whose rights to reproductive freedom are continuously attacked, and every Mainers’ right to economic security,” said Eliza Townsend, Executive Director of the Maine Women’s Lobby. “These issues are meaningfully connected to the lives of Maine women whose voices need to be heard throughout the political process.”

A major theme of the press conference and the day was that issues of basic economic fairness should also be considered “women’s issues.”

“It’s not right that a woman in Maine can work full time and still not be able to provide for her family. It’s time to reassess the policies that will help working women succeed,” said Amy Halsted, Associate Director of the Maine People’s Alliance, who highlighted the Mainers for Fair Wages referendum campaign to raise the minimum wage and the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers.

“Increasing wages for tipped workers is especially important to anyone who truly cares about closing the wage gap. Tipped workers (like restaurant servers) are mostly women and are among the lowest-paid minimum-wage workers in Maine and nationally. Compared to other workers, tipped workers are over twice as likely to fall below the federal poverty line and nearly three times as likely to qualify for food stamps,” said Halsted.

The minimum wage bill, which has gathered sufficient signatures to go to the ballot if not approved by the legislature, will likely come before the House and Senate next month.

Speakers at the Women’s Day press conference also discussed the need to protect access to abortion services and expand health care options for Maine women. Chris Yentes, a certified professional midwife, spoke in favor including LD 690, “An Act to Ensure the Safety of Home Birth,” to give pregnant women more control over where they can safely give birth.

“The Alliance for Maine Women supports real solutions that help move Maine people out of poverty for good. Those solutions include investing in programs that ensure that children can learn when they begin school, and that adults can acquire the skills necessary to succeed in today’s economy,” said Townsend. “We also support practical strategies that assist Mainers to be able to earn a living and support themselves and their families so that they can transition away from public assistance. A budget that works for all Maine people by investing in proven programs is a critical tool to address poverty.”

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