Maine Health Providers Respond To Title X Changes; Maine Family Planning Going to Court

Feb 25, 2019

Abortion services providers in Maine say they are dismayed by a new rule released by the Trump administration Friday.

Saturday, Maine Family Planning announced that it will seek a preliminary injunction to prevent the rule from going into effect.

The Trump administration rule finalizes some changes in how abortion services are provided under the Title X grant program, the only federal grant program that funds family planning and related services.

George Hill, President and CEO of Maine Family Planning, says especially troubling is an attempt to dictate whether a provider can discuss abortion services with a patient. 

“The Domestic Gag Rule runs counter to everything we stand for as a reproductive health care organization,” says Hill,  “We are going to court to make sure Maine patients and providers aren’t harmed by this blatantly ideological attack on health care for low-income people.

Hill also says the Trump administration seems determined to completely dissociate pregnancy termination from all other reproductive care, and Maine Family Planning views the rule as an attempt to sabotage the Title X program. 

“It's a very natural thing for abortion to be a part of the full range of reproductive health care services,” Hill says. “We've always treated it that way have done so for the last 30 years or so."

Under the new rule, clinics that receive Title X funding must now create a physical separation — such as access corridors, doorways, and rooms — between abortion services and any other family planning services provided at the clinic. The rule also bans Title X health providers from referring patients for abortion services elsewhere.

"We're not going to compromise our medical ethics,” says Nicole Clegg, a spokesperson with Planned Parenthood Northern New England. “We're not going to restrict information to our patients, especially if a patient is asking for it, and they know that."

Clegg says the rules are designed to put abortion providers in an impossible situation.

Creating the physical separations required would be cost prohibitive for many clinics she says, and the "gag rule" banning providers from discussing abortion services with their patients is not something Planned Parenthood will comply with, even if it means foregoing Title X funding.

"We don't accept any restrictive state or federal funding, and this is the reason," says Andrea Irwin, executive director of the Mabel Wadsworth Center, which provides women's health care in Bangor.

Irwin calls the rules "atrocious" and says many clinics are now in a difficult position. "Some, as best I know, may actually decide to forego the funding and either try to make it up with state funding or private sources instead," Irwin says.

"If that means appealing to the community, if that means appealing to our lawmakers at the federal and state and federal lawmakers, for us, our primary priority is making sure there's no interruption in care to our patients," Clegg says.

Clegg says the group receives about $400,000 through Title X, which is used to subsidize family planning services for lower income clients.

The new rule will take effect 60 days after publication in the federal register. 

Updated 10:00 a.m. Feb. 23, 2019