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Category Archive: News

  1. Join our Board of Directors!

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    Mabel Wadsworth Center (“Mabel’s”), an independent, feminist healthcare provider based in Bangor, Maine, is seeking applications for the Board of Directors.  During this critical time for abortion access and transgender healthcare, it is important that we have a dynamic group of folks to help ensure Mabel’s vitality as we serve our community. The Board of Directors works to strengthen and promote our mission and values, ensure financial stability and growth, and strategically plan for Mabel’s future. Ours is a three pronged mission “to provide healthcare using a feminist model focused on sexual and reproductive health through education, advocacy, and clinical services.”  You can learn more about us at mabelwadsworth.org.

    If you are interested in joining Mabel’s board, please respond to the four questions below. We are committed to inclusion and accessibility for all. We offer many ways to answer the application questions. Written, video and audio answers may be emailed to mabelbod@gmail.com. If you would like to speak with a board member, that can also be arranged by emailing the address above. Please remember to include your name, town you live in, telephone number, and preferred method of contact.  A general description of board responsibilities can be found HERE

    Mabel’s is wholly engaged in the ongoing fight for reproductive justice, including dismantling white supremacy and oppressive systems within the nonprofit and health care industries where we operate. We welcome applicants of all genders & backgrounds, especially first-time Board of Directors members. If you have experience in anti-oppressive work, especially reproductive justice and abortion advocacy, anti-racism, and transgender inclusion, we hope you will share that with us. 

    Thank you for your consideration!

    1. Please describe your interest in serving Mabel’s. Discuss your understanding of our programs, values, and mission, particularly as they relate to anti-oppressive work.
    2. There are a variety of ways to support Mabel’s work. What specifically interests you about board service? 
    3. What relevant experiences or skills might you bring to this role? What relationships (with organizations, communities, or key stakeholders) would you bring to this position? 
    4. What is important for us to know about you as we consider your application? We’d love to hear about any characteristics, identities, affinities, or lived experiences you would like to share with us that inform your understanding of the world or might add to our shared approach to leadership. 

     

  2. Rally Remarks by Aspen Ruhlin (they,them)

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    I want to thank everyone for being here with us today to rally and fight for abortion access. While the looming loss of Roe is devastating, it is important to remember that Roe was never enough. Roe is the floor, and it is a rickety floor that has failed many people. Marginalized people especially–poor people, Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, trans people, and people in rural communities–have fallen through the cracks of the protections to abortion provided by Roe. When it comes to abortion access and Reproductive Justice as a whole, we deserve a house where people have stability, protection, and support to make decisions around reproductive health.

    SisterSong Women of Color Collective defines the Reproductive Justice framework as the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities. Abortion access is one vital piece of that. We do not have Reproductive Justice when children are unjustly removed from loving homes by a foster system built on white supremacy. We do not have Reproductive Justice when the nearest abortion clinic is hours away and you can’t get a ride. We do not have Reproductive Justice when Black women are three times as likely to die in pregnancy, birth, and postpartum as white women because of racism at the hands of healthcare providers that are supposed to be caring for them. We do not have Reproductive Justice when trans people like myself are excluded from conversations around pregnancy, abortion, and birth. We certainly do not have Reproductive Justice when there is a formula shortage and no support for people to feed the babies they have.

    I want to talk about trans people and abortions. Trans people, binary and nonbinary alike, have abortions. We also continue pregnancies and parent. Framing abortion access and everything around pregnancy and birth as only being for women is both inaccurate and harmful. We lose nothing by being inclusive, and in fact gain so much by honestly representing these issues. I have had people argue with me, “But Aspen, the anti-abortion people are targeting women, that’s why we need to focus on only cis women!” I have a couple problems with this. People who oppose abortion access aren’t fine with trans people having abortions, they just don’t see us as we are. They see people who can get pregnant as women. Why would you want to join them in their transphobia? Further, why would you let those who do not see pregnant people as people decide how you talk about abortion? Whether or not anti-abortion politicians consider the impact of abortion bans and barriers on trans people, we are still impacted, and we deserve to be a part of the conversation as people who have abortions.

    You will notice that I do not call people who oppose abortion access “pro life.” This is because it is a misnomer. You can not be pro-life while devaluing the lives of pregnant people and people who have, had, and will have abortions. People who are pregnant are not walking incubators. They are people. Regardless of whether they are terminating or continuing a pregnancy, they deserve autonomy and control over their bodies. If you do not support abortion access, then you do not see pregnant people as people. In the words of Viva Ruiz of Thank God for Abortion, “We are already the miracle of life.”

    We have to fight abortion stigma. No more shaming people who have abortions. No more shaming people who have multiple abortions. No more shaming people for not doing what you would do to prevent pregnancy. When we’re talking about abortion, we need to say abortion. It’s not a bad word, because it’s not a bad thing. Abortions are normal, essential healthcare.

    Speaking of stigma, we have to stop insisting that no one is pro abortion. I am pro abortion! I am pro abortion the same way I am pro home birth, pro hospital birth, pro gender-affirming care, pro thyroidectomy, and pro insulin. I am pro people getting the healthcare they need.

    We need to guarantee access to abortion for everyone who needs it without barriers. We need to challenge any and everyone who opposes abortion access. Look at their actions, not just their words, and make them uncomfortable. We need to challenge ourselves to grow and learn. We need to help people get to clinics to get the care they need, or support them in accessing safe self-managed abortion with medication abortion if that is what they need. 

    Abortion is our right. Let’s act like it.

  3. Leadership Announcement

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    June 3, 2021

    Leadership Announcement from Board President, Aislinn Canarr (she, her):

    It is with a heart full of both sadness and joy that I share the news that Andrea Irwin will be stepping down as Executive Director of Mabel Wadsworth Center after six years of leadership. Andrea is the second-ever Executive Director in our 37-year history of providing exceptional client-centered reproductive and sexual health care, and educating and advocating for reproductive health, rights, and justice.

    Under her leadership, the Center invested in an ambitious three-year strategic plan that has guided us through significant change and new opportunities. Under her visioning and with the support of the board of directors and staff leadership team, Andrea has led the Center to a place of stability and growth.

    Under Andrea’s leadership, the Center:

    • Reckoned with its feminist identity and legacy to reimagine a more gender inclusive mission in alignment with our values, and now welcomes people of all genders.
    • Expanded clinical services to become the region’s largest provider for trans clients; and to offer a more holistic and comprehensive model of care for all, including primary care, mental health counseling, and client advocate services to help clients to enroll in health coverage and overcome other barriers to care.
    • Became a nationally known and respected leader in providing and advocating for trans-inclusive abortion care and other reproductive healthcare.
    • Prioritized abortion justice and relentlessly advocated for dismantling the discriminatory and racist Hyde Amendment and other restrictions that harm people who need abortion care; acted as lead plaintiff in ACLU lawsuit to restore state Medicaid coverage of abortion.
    • Spoke loudly and unapologetically about abortion in unexpected forums by lifting the voices of people who have abortions.
    • Strengthened Mainers’ access to abortion care by championing the enactment of new state laws to require MaineCare coverage of abortion care, and to allow nurse practitioners to provide abortion care, demonstrably increasing access for people struggling to make ends meet and in rural areas.

    Today Mabel’s is a nationally recognized feminist health center known for our exceptional abortion care, trans care, and other essential health services. As we have become a leading provider for LGBTQ+ care in Maine, Andrea’s commitment to social justice and centering the experiences of folks living at the margins, precipitated our work to prioritize racial justice and equity. While it has been a time full of stress and challenge, her strategic thinking, vision, and pragmatic base saw the Center not only stay open to serve clients during a pandemic, but thrive as well. Her focus has always been on the community we serve, and the care of the staff that serve them. I and the Center will miss Andrea’s enthusiasm, care, and curiosity. I am grateful that I got a chance to work closely with her as Board President.

    Andrea’s last day with the Center will be June 18. After informing the Board of this news last month, we have worked closely with her to create an initial transition plan to share with our community. The Board has formed an experienced transition team and intends to hire an external interim Executive Director before hiring the Center’s next Executive Director. Kate Waning (she/her), the Center’s current Director of Finance and Operations, will become Acting Director upon Andrea’s departure, before an interim director is selected.

    Andrea leaves the Center in an excellent position to be intentional and thoughtful in our approach in hiring our next Executive Director. We will be reflecting on equity in hiring and attracting great talent. Our focus will be leadership based in feminist and racially equitable models in order to better serve our clients and community.

    Andrea will be missed dearly, but I am also excited for her next chapter and our ongoing partnership with her as a valued member of our community.

    What a time.  To pause.  To reflect.  To prioritize our work.  To grow in opportunity.

    Thank you all for you do to support the Center. Please contact me directly with questions or concerns at mabelbod@gmail.com.

     

    Message from Andrea:

    Leading Mabel Wadsworth Center for the past six years has been a privilege for which I am profoundly grateful. I am especially grateful to current board president Aislinn Canarr and past president Suzanne Gordon, and the entire board, for their strong leadership and commitment to the Center. I have also truly enjoyed working with such an incredible team of staff and volunteers, who meet every challenge with courage, grace, and resilience.

    My pride in this team and our work to support our clients with compassion, and to impact our broader community, is immense. I am especially proud of our work to celebrate the experiences of people who have abortions, and to build trust and strengthen relationships within the trans community. Mabel’s has always been on the frontlines, acting boldly and with great clarity of vision and values, a legacy that will undoubtedly continue.

    While I am leaving the Executive Director role, I remain deeply committed to the movement for reproductive health, rights, and justice, and look forward to continuing to be a part of Mabel’s vibrant, diverse, and powerful community. Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to steward this dynamic organization for six years!

     

  4. STIs – Stigmatized and On the Rise

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    By Emma Smith (she, her, hers), intern, Mabel Wadsworth Center

    Why are sexually transmitted infections (STIs) a topic of avoidance? What makes them stigmatized – giving them a negative connotation? When should we be concerned about them? Why do they seem scary? 

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report in 2018 with U.S. statistics showing that cases of some STIs were increasing in their report regularity. 

    With a lack of clinical studies on the ways STIs get spread, it isn’t clear what factors are contributing to this rise more than others. 

    This absence of clinical study and engagement on ways STIs spread is a deficit in the U.S. education and healthcare system, which has been legislatively designed to result in a lack of evidence-based education on sexual health and thus inadequate public understanding.

    Regardless if people are having more sex or not, or more partners – we as a culture remain stuck in a past of sex stigma, which shames people for the sex they have and is stigmatizing for what is preventable, and incredibly common in the U.S. today. 

    The stigma around STIs has amplified in the U.S. since legislators created funding for abstinence-only education, beginning in 1996 and still in effect, using tax-payer dollars today. Legislatively designed to teach based on the main tenet that the only way to stay truly safe, happy, and in fulfilling relationships(or critically, a relationship), is to abstain from sex until marriage. This education targets kids between the ages of 12-18. In an education system like this, there is barely any room to discuss the implications of sex, in some cases at all. This is meant to be intimidating – thus maintaining a cultural stigma for the sake of conservatism. 

    With this lack of education and discussion about STIs, it’s no wonder that people avoid getting tested and are unaware that they even should be getting tested. The purposeful avoidance of evidence-based sexual education in the U.S. reflects our deeply rooted societal discomfort with addressing sex at all, especially with emerging adults, and this has serious implications for the state of everyone’s health, relationships and livelihoods. Through the continued withholding of information, misconceptions and fear surrounding STIs have grown – holding people hostage from opening up and honestly assessing their health. This culture is cruel. 

    STIs are packed with stigma in our culture today – for example, there is a connotation of being ‘clean’ when one doesn’t have STIs and being ‘dirty’ if one does. This clean/dirty connotation sums up the way many people think about STIs, and by associating having these infections with being ‘dirty’ we are furthering the stigma through shame, and this only does harm. 

    To protect ourselves and others from the spread of STIs, and to work to reduce their stigma, are the same goal. Honest communication with one’s partner(s) and healthcare provider(s) is a necessary step for this goal; talking about the types of sex you have, the frequency of new partners, and whether or not you’ve had unprotected (without barriers) sex or shared needle use are all important topics your partner(s) and healthcare provider(s) should be aware of to properly assess risk. 

    These essential conversations must be coupled with STI testing, because most STIs are usually asymptomatic, meaning they’ll often show no physical signs of infection but can remain contagious and can be harmful if left untreated. The suggested regularity of STI testing is different for different people; if you frequently (subjective, I know) engage in casual sex you should have STI screens fairly often, with the urge to screen always being after unprotected sex, and not just the penis-vagina type either – this goes for all sex involving each partners’ fluid contact. If you don’t have multiple partners, if you’ve had one or two, it’s still important to get tested for these reasons – because STIs can happen to anyone, regardless of the regularity of sex. 

    Honesty with providers is crucial for them to properly be able to assess your risk of infection and transmission. STI screenings are not cut and dry – they are fitted for the patient, for example,  many screenings will not include a herpes test unless the patient expresses concern for exposure to herpes. This is because providers avoid testing for herpes because false positives are fairly common, and if one does test positive for herpes but is asymptomatic, the health and transmission concerns are often so minimal that the patient can go without knowing. 

    But honest conversations with partners and providers, and STI testing, can only go so far if people are not taking steps for harm reduction during sex. Harm reduction looks different for different people and circumstances – sometimes harm reduction is using a barrier like a condom or dental dam, and sometimes harm reduction means abstaining from more high-risk sexual acts, for example, sex involving fluid contact. 

    Condoms, dental dams, and gloves are all the best barrier options for safer sex – but still yet can’t provide complete protection against infection, especially with common STIs like HPV and the herpes virus, which get spread through skin contact and not fluid contact, like other STIs. 

    However we find ourselves talking about STIs; whether it’s prefacing sex, in a clinical setting, or in ordinary discussion – there can not be effective conversations about preventing the spread of STIs if we do not abstain from stigmatizing language. This means, in short, being kind, and mainly working to not use(to others and internally) language that connotes STIs with being ‘dirty’ or shameful. If you get or have an STI(s), it’s absolutely not the end of the world – or your sex life. Preventative measures and treatments can be provided for the continuance of a fulfilling and pleasurable sex life. Be kind to yourself, remember STIs are as easy to catch, and as common, as the flu.

  5. Announcing “Terry’s Trust”: a new initiative to honor Terry Marley-DeRosier, WHNP

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    After more than 23 years of service as an employee, and nearly four decades as a co-founder, Terry Marley-DeRosier, Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, is leaving Mabel Wadsworth Center to explore new opportunities. While this news is bittersweet, we are pleased to announce the launch of “Terry’s Trust”, a new initiative to honor Terry’s legacy and ensure the Center’s sustainability for many years to come.

    As a co-founder, and our longest-serving provider whose philosophy of care was instrumental to the creation of “the Mabel way”, Terry’s contributions to Mabel Wadsworth Center and the greater community are significant; among her many accomplishments, Terry’s impact is far-reaching:

    • Helping to envision and create Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center, Maine’s only independent nonprofit feminist health center, and the first Maine clinic to offer abortion care;
    • Reaching thousands through education, empowering women with accurate information and resources about their reproductive and sexual health, including special programs on lesbian health, menopause, and women and AIDS;
    • Establishing our prenatal care practice when she merged her private practice in 1997, becoming one of the only practices in the area to serve clients with MaineCare, and one of the only independent nonprofit clinics nationwide to offer full-spectrum pregnancy care;
    • Expanding gynecology services to include colposcopy for cervical cancer screenings, an unmet need in our region;
    • Teaching and training countless nursing students and medical residents; and
    • Playing a vital role in developing the long-term strategy to change Maine’s physician-only restriction on abortion care, and then becoming one of the state’s first nurse practitioners to provide abortion care when the law changed in 2019.

    Message from Terry Marley-DeRosier:

    “While this change is bittersweet, I could not be prouder of the Center’s contributions to the community and the many lives we have touched. It has been a privilege and an honor to empower women and to truly partner with them along their journeys. I have loved being a women’s health nurse practitioner and will always be grateful to the thousands of clients who trusted me with their care. I am excited for the next chapter and proud of the Center’s growth with the addition of primary care to serve our community.”

    Message from Andrea Irwin, Executive Director:

    “Terry’s unwavering commitment to her clients and the Center’s feminist philosophy of care, that everyone deserves a provider who listens to their concerns with compassion, and supports their decisions without judgment, is unmatched. Her legacy is the Center’s strong foundation as an essential safety net provider, and in supporting and empowering so many clients.”

    We look forward to sharing more opportunities to honor Terry’s legacy and contributions to Mabel Wadsworth Center in the months to come, and even celebrating in person when it is safe to do so!

    Ensuring continuous, uninterrupted care for our clients is our highest priority. Fortunately, we have several other providers ready to assume care for Terry’s clients and we are now offering primary care in addition to OB-GYN services. Please call us (947-5337) or email (info@mabelwadsworth.org) to establish care and to arrange an appointment.

    We are so grateful for Terry’s many years of service and friendship. Please consider making a special gift in her honor, to help us continue to do such vital work.

     

    Donate to “Terry’s Trust” (please write “Terry’s Trust” in donations notes)