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Gag rule jeopardizes care for more than 12,000 PPNNE patients in Maine

The Trump-Pence administration’s gag rule jeopardizes the care of more than 22,000 Mainers; today, four of them shared their experiences as Planned Parenthood patients and supporters. 

Julia Whyel, a Planned Parenthood patient for more than 20 years, explained “For many women like me, there’s nothing political about Planned Parenthood: Planned Parenthood is our trusted healthcare provider. Which is why it’s so discouraging to see a few politicians doing everything they can to politicize health care and make it harder for people to get care at Planned Parenthood. ”

The Trump-Pence administration’s gag rule on providers in the Title X program, the nation’s program for affordable birth control and reproductive health care, impacts more than 4 million people each year, including more than 22,000 Mainers, who rely on Title X providers like Planned Parenthood for care. 

Brendan Glass, a college student and Planned Parenthood patient, noted that while many people think of Planned Parenthood as women’s health care, men like him also rely on Planned Parenthood for sexual and reproductive health care. 

The gag rule makes it illegal for health care providers in the Title X program to refer patients for abortion, and also blocks access to care through the program at Planned Parenthood by imposing cost-prohibitive and unnecessary “physical separation” requirements.

The administration has forced health care providers like Planned Parenthood to either withhold information from its patients or be pushed out of a program designed to ensure that people struggling to make ends meet can still access birth control, STI testing, cancer screenings, and other essential reproductive health care.

“Because of our commitment to ethical patient care, it is impossible for Planned Parenthood to continue participating in the Title X program with the gag rule,” said Nicole Clegg, Vice President of Public Affairs at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. “At least one in five Mainers has a story to tell about how they have counted on Planned Parenthood for nonjudgmental care. The gag rule jeopardizes people’s health, their lives and their futures. This political agenda to censor medical information and take away the ability of patients to make the best decisions about their health has no place in Maine.”

While PPNNE is committed to continuing to provide nonjudgmental care for all, it’s important to note that the gag rule will disproportionately impact people already facing structural barriers to care, like people of color, immigrants, people with low incomes, and people with disabilities.   

Melissa Hue, a Planned Parenthood patient and healthcare advocate, has seen firsthand the barriers to care facing people of color and immigrant communities. “Having a patient-centered health organizations defunded leaves people vulnerable, helpless and isolated,” she said. “It sends a message to not only minorities but to everyone who needs access to healthcare that your bodies are not your own, your health is not of importance, and your voice can be silenced.”

PPNNE health centers in Maine treat more than 12,000 patients each year. For many, PPNNE is their only access to care, while others continue coming to Planned Parenthood for nonjudgmental health care in a supportive setting. 

Pat Washburn, a disability rights advocate and former Planned Parenthood patient, shared her experience obtaining care at Planned Parenthood after the condom fell off during sex and how important it was to see providers who didn’t laugh at her and offered supportive, nonjudgmental care.