Activism

Grannies lobby for reproductive rights

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Sunday, May 5, 2013 - 6:00pm
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House Speaker Mark Eves meets in his office with the Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights group on April 30. Courtesy of Wendy Eichler
House Speaker Mark Eves meets in his office with the Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights group on April 30. Courtesy of Wendy Eichler

A new group, Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights (GRR), founded this February, had its first public outing April 30 when 14 of its members from different regions in Maine visited the State Capitol to lobby Maine Senators and Representatives.

Dressed in their yellow GRR shirts, the grandmothers, in their sixties, seventies and eighties, began the day meeting with Planned Parenthood lobbyists in the Hall of Flags. After that, they went to the opening of the House of Representatives session, where they sat in the gallery and were introduced from the podium by House Speaker Mark Eves, after Yarmouth's Harrison Middle School Band performed patriotic music.

"They're the reason we are here," said one of the GRR participants, Sukey Heard from Arrowsic, as she looked at the 60 middle school musicians who also were sitting in the gallery. “Young people need to know that our generation of old people is finding it necessary to fight anew for the rights we thought we had gained years ago.”

Following the opening of the session, the grandmothers had individual conversations with their representatives, and then joined a bipartisan group of female legislators for a brown bag luncheon meeting.

In the afternoon the GRR grandmothers met with Speaker Eves in his office, and then went to a House committee session that was marking up legislation that would expand coverage of family planning services to Medicaid recipients, L.D. 1247.

“So many young women today don't have an idea what struggles our generation fought to secure reproductive rights,” said Judy Kahrl of Arrowsic, the founder of GRR. "Access to family planning is incredibly important," she said, referring to L.D. 1247. "By ensuring that women and men up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level have access to effective and affordable family planning services we can save the state money by lowering the unintended pregnancy rate."

Leila Percy, former Democratic state Representative from Phippsburg, was instrumental in setting up the meetings. She now works for Pathfinder International, an international organization that promotes quality sexual and reproductive health care for women and families by working with local partners in more than 100 countries. It was started in the 1920's by Kahrl's father, Dr. Clarence Gamble.

Grandmothers taking part in the day's activities included: Sue Edwards (Brunswick), Wendy Ross Eichler (Wiscasset), Stephanie Freund (Portland), Becky Halbrook (Phippsburg), Sukey Heard (Arrowsic), Judy Kahrl (Arrowsic), Sue Kennedy (Brunswick), Jeni Lewis (Winthrop), Jay McCreight (Harpswell), MaryRae Means (Bristol), Helen Regan (Harpswell), Cushing Samp (Saco), Joan Smith (West Bath), and Cathie Todd (Phippsburg).

For further information about GRR, go to GRR on Facebook, or email MaineGRR@gmail.com/.