Health care providers in Maine that receive Title X funding are condemning the Trump Administration's proposed gag rule that would block them from referring patients to abortion services.
The providers say the gag rule would jeopardize the health care that 22,000 women in Maine receive under Title X, which provides federal money for health services other than abortion.
Maine receives $2 million per year from the federal Title X program, which provides funding for family planning and preventive health care. It supports nearly four dozen health centers across the state, fewer than half of which provide abortions.
Kate Brogan of Maine Family Planning, which distributes the Title X funds, says their clinics are often the sole source of health care for their patients. If the proposed gag rule goes into effect, Brogan says it will have the biggest impact on low-income patients.
"And it will bring us back closer to the days when women of means had access to the services they need, and poor women are on their own," Brogan says.
One of the program's requirements is that, if requested, a health provider counsel a pregnant patient on the full range of options – including abortion. The Trump administration's proposal would eliminate that mandate to discuss abortion.
Nicole Clegg of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England says the proposal would also prohibit providers from telling patients where they can get an abortion.
"It removes the guarantee that you're getting full and accurate information about your health care from your doctor,” she says.
Clegg says it effectively censors providers at reproductive health centers such as Planned Parenthood, which serves about half of the people in Maine who receive Title X services.
Patient Melissa Hue says she relied on Planned Parenthood for information about reproductive health that she couldn't get elsewhere.
"Being brought up in this society where women's reproductive health isn't talked about, you're kind of lost in guiding yourself," Hue says.
Hue is a first generation immigrant from the Ivory Coast. Growing up, she says, reproductive health wasn't talked about in her household.
"What it would do for me if this was enacted would be to limit my community and everything I've learned this far," she says.
The Trump administration's proposal comes at a time when both teen and unintended pregnancy rates in the United States are at historic lows. The gag rule is a revival of a similar restriction during the Reagan administration that failed to take effect because of legal challenges. This proposal is also the subject of a lawsuit brought by three Planned Parenthood affiliates.
Clegg says all options are on the table to prevent the changes to Title X.
“We also have elected officials who could influence, who could also be supportive,” Clegg says.
Maine Right to Life did not respond to a request for comment Friday afternoon. The national group Students for Life of America issued a statement on its website praising the gag rule, saying changes to Title X are long overdue, and that the Trump administration has every right to require that its programs focus on health care, and not abortions.
Updated: Friday 5:00 p.m.