Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and Maine Family Planning praised the Biden administration for taking the first step Thursday toward rescinding a rule that makes it illegal for federally funded health care providers to tell patients how or where to access abortion services.

President Biden on Thursday signed a presidential memorandum directing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to take immediate action to review and consider repealing the so-called “domestic gag rule,” which was put in place by the Trump administration. In a fact sheet, the White House said the memorandum reflects the policy of the Biden administration to support the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls both in the United States and worldwide.

The rule makes it illegal for any medical care provider participating in the Title X program to tell patients how or where to access abortion services and imposes “physical separation” restrictions on health care centers that provide abortions. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England said the moves were meant to push its health centers and other reproductive health care providers out of Title X federal funding assistance. Title X is the nation’s only program dedicated to providing affordable birth control and reproductive health care.

Both Maine agencies said the move by the newly elected president, which stopped short of repealing the gag rule, represents a promising first step for protecting and expanding sexual and reproductive health care in Maine and across the country.

Maine Family Planning, whose headquarters are in Augusta, said the rule forced it to pull out of the Title X national family planning program, jeopardizing basic health care for tens of thousands of Mainers. The agency said it lost about $2 million in federal funds that were being used to support family planning at 50 sites, including 18 Maine Family Planning clinics, four Planned Parenthood health centers, and five school-based health centers. The health care network serves nearly 30,000 mostly low-income Mainers, who rely on the clinics for affordable birth control, wellness exams, cancer screenings, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

George Hill, president and CEO of Maine Family Planning, said to make up for the lost revenues, his agency tapped into reserve funds and private fundraising to keep going, but he added that immediate help is needed.


“This is an important first step toward rectifying the damage wrought by Trump’s Domestic Gag Rule in Maine and nationwide,” Hill said in a statement. “But the nation’s family planning network is still fractured. Qualified providers require a clear pathway back into the Title X program as soon as possible. Low-income, rural and vulnerable Mainers are depending on us for the health care they need ,and they need it now.”

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England also hailed the president’s actions. The agency, which provides reproductive and sexual health care services, operates health care centers in Biddeford, Sanford, Portland and Topsham, according to its website.

“Today’s executive actions are an important first step in protecting and expanding sexual and reproductive health care for all people, no matter where you live, how much money you make or your health insurance status,” said Nicole Clegg, the agency’s spokeswoman. “There is much more that the Biden-Harris Administration and Congress can and must do and we hope this is just the beginning. I cannot think of a more urgent time to take big, bold action to ensure everyone can make decisions about sexual and reproductive health care that are best for them and their families.”

Maine Family Planning challenged Trump’s domestic gag rule in federal court in Maine in 2019 and lost. The agency appealed to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, where its complaint has been stayed.

Also on Thursday, Biden signed an executive order rescinding a Trump administration rule that bars U.S. funding for organizations abroad that perform abortions or offer information about them, according to The Washington Post.

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