As 2018 (fucking finally) draws to a close, so too does the reign of Maine’s very own Trump prototype and major boner killer, Governor Paul LePage. But Janet Mills’ upcoming inauguration could be good news for your sex life — and for the sexual health of Mainers statewide.
Politics and public policy might feel like they’re miles away from the prostate stimulation or crotchless catsuit you enjoy in your private time, but the reality is that Augusta is much closer to your bedroom than you think.
Decisions made about healthcare access and public health funding can have a dramatic impact on the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections. Regulations on birth control determine when, whether, and how people can access reliable methods of avoiding pregnancy. Until 2003’s Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas, states were legally permitted to ban and criminalize non-hetero sex just because they felt like it. That’s very recent history. We still have a lot of work to do to ensure that all people have access to their full sexual and reproductive rights, including the care and support they need to keep themselves and their communities safe and healthy. And for better or for worse, a lot of that work depends on our lawmakers.
So Janet, we turn to you. Here are five steps our incoming governor and state legislators can take to improve the sexual health of all Mainers:
Support inclusive sex education. Maine is one of only 13 states that mandates comprehensive, medically accurate, and age-appropriate sex education for all students in grades K-12. While that’s certainly something to be proud of, the 2001 statute could use a few updates. Currently, there is no requirement for discussing or even acknowledging LGBTQ+ identities, leaving queer, trans, and questioning kids in the dark about safer sex and health topics related to their experiences. Updating the statute and Maine’s health education standards to include all students — not just straight kids — would be a powerful step toward achieving inclusive, affirming sex education for all.
Repeal Maine’s physician-only requirement for performing abortions. Another outdated and unnecessary state law prohibits qualified advanced-practice healthcare providers such as nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and physician’s assistants from performing abortions. Large-scale studies have demonstrated that abortion is not only safer than other routine procedures subject to less regulation (such as colonoscopies), but that trained non-physicians can provide abortion care that is just as safe and high-quality as an MD or DO. The physician-only requirement limits access and increases costs for people seeking abortions without improving safety or patient outcomes. In 2019, Maine should join 9 other states and the District of Columbia in doing away with physician-only requirements for abortion.
Allow emergency contraception to be sold in vending machines. Current state laws prohibit the sale of any medication in vending machines. Students at the University of Southern Maine and on other campuses across Maine are campaigning to change that. Doing so would mean that certain forms of emergency contraception (EC), also called the morning-after pill or Plan B, could be immediately available to people who need them without waiting for a pharmacy or college health center to open. Levonorgestrel, the most common form of EC available over-the-counter, is more effective the sooner it’s taken after unprotected sex, so time is of the essence. EC is safe, effective, and can help people avoid unintended pregnancy. Lawmakers should listen to students statewide and repeal the antiquated vending machine statute to make EC more readily available.
Increase funding for public health programs. It’s no secret that Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services, including Maine CDC, has suffered punishing cuts under the LePage administration. Community outreach and testing programs are effective means of reaching at-risk populations where they are and getting people connected to services. Disease investigators help prevent outbreaks of STIs by tracking down people who were potentially exposed and getting them into care as quickly as possible. But funding for outreach programs is stretched to the limit, and only two disease investigators currently cover the entire state. Restoring and increasing funding for these and other programs will better enable us to turn the tide on skyrocketing STI rates, improving community health and reducing risk for all.
Make Medicaid expansion a reality. Access to care is critical for supporting all aspects of a person’s health, and sexual health is no exception. Medicaid expansion is a voter-approved measure that will extend coverage to tens of thousands of Mainers, making contraceptive services, STI testing and treatment, screening for breast, cervical, and prostate cancers, and so much more accessible to people in need. Mills has already promised to implement expansion when she assumes office, and following through will change the lives of as many as 70,000 of our friends, family, and neighbors.
Make us proud, Janet. And should you ever decide to create a cabinet-level position for Commissioner of Sex Tips, give me a call.
If you get laid at or after Janet Mills’ public inauguration party or if you have a question about sex and relationships, I want to hear from you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.