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Fab Feminist Magazine

Feminist Movers Makers & Shakers: Nik Sparlin & the Mabel Wadsworth Center

Feminist Movers Makers & Shakers: Nik Sparlin & the Mabel Wadsworth Center

by Callie Garp

March 22, 2019

How would you describe your outreach work & what do you hope to accomplish?

Mabel Wadsworth Center provides healthcare using a feminist model focused on sexual and reproductive health through education, advocacy, and clinical services. We are an independently-funded clinic and provide comprehensive reproductive and sexual healthcare services like abortion care, annual wellness exams, STI testing and treatment, pregnancy testing and options education, prenatal care, LGBTQ+ healthcare, gender affirming hormone replacement therapy, mental health therapy, and more.

We serve the greater-Bangor, ME region as our clinic is located in Bangor, but we see clients who travel from across the state of Maine. We accept private insurance, public insurance through MaineCare, and offer MabelCare reduced fees for uninsured clients.

Through all of our services, we hope to advance our vision of promoting sexual and reproductive healthcare access for all, regardless of income.

Why is this work important?

We believe that this work is important as reproductive and sexual healthcare services should be available to all, regardless of economic status. More than half of the clients we see have income levels under the Federal Poverty Limit, and their continued access to care matters to us.

Through our advocacy, we fight for bills that will advance our vision. Most recently, we teamed up with the ACLU of Maine as the lead plaintiff on a case arguing for abortion coverage under MaineCare state funding, and are still waiting on a ruling. We have also backed bills this year that would allow for easier access to emergency contraception through vending machines as well as non-discriminatory coverage under state and private insurance for abortion care.
As an abortion provider, we also do our best to lessen the stigma surrounding abortion care and the people who seek or have had abortions. Our Director of Education and Community Engagement often lectures at local university classes in order to give people information to demystify abortion care. Recently, Advocacy Committee volunteers wrote letters to the editor and op-eds to local publications that celebrate the necessary work that abortion providers do for our community.

Can you talk about the evolution of your work?

Mabel Wadsworth Center evolved from providing care to mainly women to providing care to people of all genders, with a large number of clients from the transgender community.

Our services have also evolved over time: When we first began as Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center in 1984, we were providing wellness exams, cancer screenings, and education about lesbian health with the Lesbian Health Project. Today, we provide a wide range of comprehensive reproductive and sexual health services, including our most recent addition of mental health therapy.

What do you hope people gain from experiencing your outreach?

We hope that people gain knowledge that helps to empower them, from healthcare to advocacy and beyond. We hope that our clinic allows people to freely ask questions and have their healthcare needs met in a safe, respectful, nonjudgmental setting. We also hope that the outreach and advocacy work that we do inspires others to do the same!

What is your background in feminism and/or social justice?

Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center was established in 1984 by a group of advocates who worked together to increase birth control access across the state, including our namesake: Mabel Sine Wadsworth. From our humble beginnings, Mabel Wadsworth Center has focused on providing client-centered care, with a start in women’s and lesbian healthcare. In 1994, we expanded to offer in-clinic abortion care, and 2000 ushered in our ability to provide medication abortion.
Our care officially expanded to people of all genders in 2014 with the introduction of gender-affirming hormone therapy to transgender clients. In 2017, our name was formally changed to Mabel Wadsworth Center to symbolize our commitment to providing care to people of all genders.

Is collaboration something you incorporate into your practice? Why or why not?

Mabel Wadsworth Center loves collaboration. We have a number of community partners that we work with on a regular basis for referrals, staff trainings, and as coalition and legislative partners. We believe that the bonds we create with other community organizations help us to grow our intersectional feminist outlook and thrive.

How do you enlist your community in shaping the goals and methods of your outreach?

As an independently-funded clinic, Mabel Wadsworth Center greatly depends on community support in order to keep our doors open and further our outreach and activism goals. Our goal in providing care is to make sure that we are truly providing a benefit to our community, and community needs have shaped the services that we have added over the years. Over the years, we have distributed paper and online surveys and conducted focus groups in order to shape our strategic planning for the future of the center.

Mabel’s also has many committees comprised of community volunteers as well as a dedicated Board of Directors made up of members of the greater-Bangor community from a variety of backgrounds. Our committees work to set their own goals that align with center values, and our Board focuses on the big picture of Mabel’s goals as a center and how everyone involved can work to make them happen.

Who is your favorite feminist mover, maker and/or shaker?

We think that Mabel was an amazing mover and shaker as she helped develop the first government-funded program that offered contraceptive services in Maine! She also lent her name and support to help create Mabel Wadsworth Center with her fellow founders who saw a need for an independently-funded center free of government funding restrictions.

You can read about her amazing work in Maine here.

How do you define community, and what communities do you work to engage with?

To Mabel Wadsworth Center, our community is the people that we serve directly with our services, the people who support the center with their efforts or finances, and the greater movement of people who fight the good fight for reproductive justice and bodily autonomy for all.

We work to engage with a great number of communities within the greater-Bangor region, though word of the services we provide reaches the state level as well. We place a great emphasis on the health of cisgender women and transgender and genderqueer/nonbinary folks, but also have services for cisgender men as we believe in being a health center for all, regardless of gender.
We also work to engage with a variety of age groups: Our Director of Education and Community Engagement actively works to spread awareness and education within the community about a variety of sexual and reproductive healthcare topics, meeting with college and high school students as well as community members beyond that age range. Mabel’s offers services to educate people on aging and sexuality as well as bodily changes like menopause. We strive to create an intergenerational message and environment.

With our trauma-informed clinicians and our emphasis on creating a client-centered and empowering space, we also engage with people who have experienced traumatic life events that make it more difficult to focus on their sexual and reproductive wellbeing. We have also laid essential groundwork to increase our cultural competency and knowledge about people who use drugs and the essential need for nonjudgmental care spaces and trauma-informed methods.

What are 5 ways our readers can support the work you’re doing?

  1. Readers can support Mabel Wadsworth Center by donating to fund our direct services at
  2. We welcome engagement on social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter), as we share updates on education and outreach goals. On Facebook and Twitter you can find us @MabelWadsworth. On Instagram, we are @Mabel.Wadsworth.
  3. Mabel’s has a monthly newsletter that people can sign up for on our website. We share monthly blog posts here about a variety of sexual and reproductive healthcare topics and share a lot of information about the people working and volunteering at Mabel’s!
  4. If people are within the greater-Bangor, ME area, Mabel’s is always looking for passionate people to volunteer and intern with us!
  5. And, if you are within the state of Maine and wish to support us, we are always looking for people to visit our clinic for their reproductive and sexual healthcare needs.

Mabel Wadsworth Center
Phone: (207) 947-5337
Address: 700 Mt. Hope Avenue, Suite 420 Bangor, ME 04401

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Nik Sparlin (they/them/theirs) is the Development and Communications Assistant at Mabel Wadsworth Center in Bangor, ME. In their personal time, they volunteer for MaineTransNet and Bangor Pride (2018 and 2019) and have assisted in organizing community events and protests like the Bangor Trans Day of Visibility, Bangor Womxn's March, and a #WontBeErased protest. They are currently back in school, full-time, working on a certificate in digital graphic design.


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