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Proposed Changes To Title X Funding Likely To Hurt Low-Income Women


Title X federal funds are dedicated to providing reproductive health services and care. But this week, the Trump administration proposed a rule that would block providers from referring patients for abortion services. In Maine, the providers say the rule would jeopardize the health care the 22,000 women there receive under Title X. Maine Public Radio's Patty Wight reports.

PATTY WIGHT, BYLINE: Maine receives $2 million a year from the Title X program, which provides funding for family planning and preventive health care. It supports nearly four dozen health centers across the state, less 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 rule goes into effect, Brogan says it will have the biggest impact on low-income patients.

KATE BROGAN: 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.

WIGHT: One of Title X's requirements is that, if requested, a health provider must counsel a pregnant woman on her full range of options, including abortion. The Trump administration's proposal would eliminate that requirement. 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.

NICOLE CLEGG: It removes the guarantee that you're getting full and accurate information about your health care from your doctor.

WIGHT: Clegg says it effectively censors providers T reproductive health centers like Planned Parenthood, which serves about half of the people in Maine who receive Title X services. Patient Melissa Hue is a first-generation immigrant from the Ivory Coast. Growing up, she says, reproductive health wasn't spoken about in her household.

MELISSA HUE: Being brought in a society where women's reproductive health isn't talked about, you're kind of lost in guiding yourself.

WIGHT: Hue says she relied on Planned Parenthood for information about reproductive health that she couldn't get elsewhere.

HUE: What it would do for me if this was enacted would be to limit my community and everything I've learned thus far.

WIGHT: The Trump administration's proposal comes at a time when both teen and unintended pregnancy rates in the U.S. are at historic lows. The rule is similar to a Reagan administration restriction that failed to take effect because of legal challenges and then a change of administration. Related changes to Title X are already the subject of a lawsuit brought by three Planned Parenthood affiliates. Nicole Clegg of the northern New England affiliate says all options are on the table to prevent the changes to Title X.

CLEGG: And we also have elected officials that have influence who could also be supportive.

WIGHT: Maine Right to Life did not respond to requests for comment by airtime. The national group Students for Life of America issued a statement on their website, praising the proposed 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. For NPR News, I'm Patty Wight.

SIMON: And that story - part of a reporting partnership with NPR, Maine Public Radio and Kaiser Health News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Patty is a graduate of the University of Vermont and a multiple award-winning reporter for Maine Public Radio. Her specialty is health coverage: from policy stories to patient stories, physical health to mental health and anything in between. Patty joined Maine Public Radio in 2012 after producing stories as a freelancer for NPR programs such as Morning Edition and All Things Considered. She got hooked on radio at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine, and hasn’t looked back ever since.