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Reversal of abortion gag rule cheered by Maine reproductive health care providers

Reproductive health care providers in Maine are calling President Biden's reversal this week of the Trump-era Title X gag rule long overdue. The rule prohibited providers that receive federal Title X funds from referring patients for abortions.

The opposition to the rule was so strong that reproductive health care providers in Maine dropped out of the program in 2019 rather than comply. Maine Family Planning dropped out of the program, which provides funds for health care for low income patients. That meant the loss of $2 million a year in funding to support health services for low-income patients.

CEO George Hill says funds had to be raised to cover a quarter of the organization's budget to make up for the loss. "So we were able to raise the money. It was certainly not sustainable over the long run," Hill says.

Hill says Maine Family Planning will apply to rejoin the program and will find out next April if it has been approved.

Nicole Clegg of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England says now that the gag rule has been reversed, the organization hopes to re-enter the Title X program next year. But she's also concerned that the new rule allows Title X providers the option to refuse to counsel or refer patients to abortions.

"If a patient comes in and they have an unintended pregnancy, and they want to talk about other options, how are they going to be assured that the provider, that the doors that they walked through, that the provider is going to honor that request?" Clegg says.

Clegg says patients should be able to get complete information from all providers that receive Title X funding.