March 26, 2022

Family Planning, Health Care, Reproductive Health, STIs, Title X

After more than two years sustaining itself on private funds, Maine Family Planning is back in the Title X National Family Planning program, bringing desperately needed Federal funds back to the state to sustain sexual and reproductive health care services for low-income Mainers.

Maine Family Planning’s board made the difficult but unanimous decision to withdraw from the Title X program in 2019, after the Trump administration made rule changes to the program that restricted providers from giving abortion referrals to Title X patients, along with a host of other ideologically driven changes intended to restrict access to abortion.

Defend Title X Rally in Augusta, 2019

Before voting to leave the program, Maine Family Planning (MFP) served as Maine’s statewide Title X grantee for 47 years. Title X funds, historically between $1.5 and $2 million per year, supported Maine’s family planning network, which includes MFP’s 18 community-based clinics, as well as federally qualified health centers, school-based health centers, and Planned Parenthood affiliates in Maine. Title X funds provide contraception, screening for sexually transmitted infections, cancer screenings and other essential sexual and reproductive health care for low-income patients. “We did not want to leave the program,” said MFP Board President Kathryn Vezina, “But we could not abide by the attempt to restrict our providers’ speech and undermine trust with our patients.”

During its time outside the Title X program, MFP relied on support from foundations, drawing from reserve funds, and private fundraising to maintain services across Maine’s family planning network, a solution that was not sustainable long-term. “We are so grateful for the community of donors who came together to support these essential services during an unprecedented challenge,” said Maine Family Planning CEO George Hill, “And we are grateful to the Biden Administration for the swift action it took to undo the harm done by the previous administration.”

Nationwide over 1,000 clinics left the Title X program due to the rule changes imposed by the Trump administration, and the number of clients served by the program fell from 3.9 million to 1.5 million people between 2018 and 2020. Reports from the Office of Population Affairs and the Kaiser Family Foundation estimate that the Trump administration’s “gag rule” accounted for nearly two-thirds of the dramatic reduction in the number of family planning clients served, while the COVID-19 pandemic accounted for one third of the falloff.

“This is an important victory for patients and providers,” said Hill. “But it’s important to note that sexual and reproductive health care in this country is still drastically underfunded. As we recover from the pandemic and see spikes across the country in rates of sexually transmitted infections, it’s more important than ever that we direct resources to agencies like Maine Family Planning that serve as vital safety net providers.”

The grant from the Health and Human Services Office of Population Affairs is a 5-year grant funded at $1.925 million per year, to be divided between Maine Family Planning’s 18 sites and 38 partners.