Our Voices: April 2023
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Our Voices: April 2023

Our Voices: April 2023

Equal representation creates a more equal society

Our democracy is made stronger when more people, with a wide variety of perspectives and experiences, can make their voices heard. The baseline for this is the right to vote. But representation among elected leadership is just as important. When we have school boards, town councils and state legislatures that reflect the populations they represent, the policies they produce can uplift everyone in the community.Maine has produced many impressive women who have changed the world for the better. I’m proud to serve in the Legislature alongside so many of them. Over the years, Maine’s legislative body has become more diverse, and thus more representative of Maine’s population. Now, Maine ranks 8th in the U.S. for the number of women who serve in a state legislature.I’ve spent decades working to help women gain financial literacy and independence. Over the years, it has become easier for women to gain these skills, but there are still barriers we face when it comes to being full, equal participants in society. Women still earn less than men overall — a disparity that widens when factoring in race. Women are still more often the ones to step away from their work to raise children and care for elderly parents or a spouse. Women also have unique health care needs, especially when it comes to reproductive health.In 2019, I was proud to vote in favor of a bill from my colleague, then-Sen. Cathy Breen, to help close the gender wage gap. The law we passed prevents employers from asking a job candidate about their past pay before making them an offer. During our work on this bill, we heard from so many people across the state, including Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, about their personal experiences with pay discrimination. When employers base their pay scale on what a worker has earned in previous jobs, it means one act of pay discrimination can hurt the worker for the rest of their life. This law gives us a major step forward to truly ensure equal pay for equal work.When Sen. Stacy Brenner joined the 130th Legislature, she brought her experience as a nurse-midwife to the State House. She successfully sponsored a bill to ensure insurance companies covered services provided by certified midwives just as they do for certified nurse-midwives. People with either of these certifications must meet the same requirements in order to practice medicine in Maine — the only distinction is what kind of undergraduate degree they have. It only makes sense our laws recognize this, ensuring that practitioners get the recognition and pay they deserve and patients get better access to care.It’s been heartening to see the progress we’ve made even just since I’ve been in the Legislature. Still, our work is far from over. Across our state, families still struggle to find affordable childcare services, when they can find it at all. As a result, a staggering number of women have left the workforce in order to stay home and care for their children. This hurts individual family finances, women’s overall earnings and our economy as a whole, as employers have a smaller pool of candidates to hire from. In the 130th Legislature, we passed measures to help child care providers expand their facilities and hire more workers. More work is being done this year to build on those efforts — stay tuned!We’re also closer than ever to passing a statewide paid family and medical leave policy. This measure would help workers, families and businesses, and would offer a true boost for our economy. Sen. Mattie Daughtry and Rep. Kristen Cloutier have been doing yeoman’s work leading a bipartisan commission to craft a plan by Mainers, for Mainers. A bill based on the commission’s proposal will come before the Legislature soon.As we reach the end of Women’s History Month, let’s take time to recognize how far we’ve come and the women who have paved the way for others to follow. There is still work to be done that will need dedication and diligence, but we’re well-positioned to make real progress for all Mainers. I look forward to what comes next.

Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic
Maine Senate District 24

This opinion piece appeared in the Portland Press Herald on March 31st, 2023
 

Abortion rights are once again front and center. 

Last week, a federal judge in Texas issued a ruling invalidating the FDAs 23-year old approval of the abortion pill, mifepristone, which could make it more difficult for patients across the country to access this medication.  It could also lead the way for other medications (e.g. birth control, vaccines)  to be in the crosshairs.  Less than an hour later, a federal judge in Washington State issued a ruling in another case that ordered the FDA to make no changes in availability of the medication in the states involved in this suit (which includes Maine).

These conflicting rulings by federal district judges about access to Mifepristone has set up a legal battle that will surely end up in the Supreme Court.  Mifepristone is used for over 50% of abortions in this country.

If you want more information or want to get involved, here are some resources: 

#BiggerThanRoe
https://riseup4abortionrights.org/
https://www.prochoiceamerica.org/
Women’s March Foundation

Call your Senator or Representative: (202) 224-3121