Anna Mead, left, a nurse practitioner, and Dr. Andrea Pelletier, medical director of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, are advocating for state funding for nonabortion reproductive health services that the Planned Parenthood clinics in Maine provide. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Health care advocates are promoting a bill that would invest $3.4 million in state funding annually toward women’s reproductive health services across Maine.

The money would be distributed to 61 health care centers: 18 Maine Family Planning locations, four Planned Parenthood sites, 31 federally qualified health centers and eight school-based health clinics.

Those health care centers see patients regardless of whether they have insurance or ability to pay. The funds would not be used for abortions but would support a wide range of other care.

The bill, L.D. 1478, was approved by the Maine House and Senate last year and carried over by the Senate to the current legislative session. No one testified against the bill last year, although the votes in the House and Senate were along party lines, with Democrats supporting and Republicans opposed.

“If we are to ensure that these services and access to health care are available to all across the state, we as a state must step up and fund these important services at the state level,” Sen. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth, the bill’s sponsor, said in testimony last year.

Representatives of Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, didn’t respond to questions about whether she supports the bill, although she typically supports women’s health issues.


But Rep. Michael Lemelin, R-Chelsea, said many Republicans opposed the bill because “we don’t believe none of the money goes to abortions, and we don’t believe taxpayer money should go to these clinics.”

While Planned Parenthood and Maine Family Planning do provide abortion care, the bill’s $3.4 million in new state funding would not go toward abortions but would instead support other reproductive health services, such as sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, vasectomies, mammograms, primary care, and behavioral health.

The clinics offer many reproductive health services that often go overlooked in the politically charged abortion debate.

“This is a cornerstone of Maine’s public health infrastructure,” said Olivia Pennington, spokesperson for Maine Family Planning. “Some of our rural clinics are only open one to two days per week. This allows us to hire more staff, extend the days we are open, keep the doors open longer and meet the needs of folks in Maine.”

Something as routine as treating a common STI, for instance, if left undiagnosed and untreated, could have lifelong negative health implications for patients, Pennington said.

At Planned Parenthood of Northern New England in downtown Portland, nurse practitioner Anna Mead said some patients don’t have consistent access to care, and Planned Parenthood may be their only health care appointment in an entire year.


“We provide a lot of care to people who don’t get care anywhere else,” Mead said. She said another way they help keep people healthy is by giving adult vaccinations, such as for influenza or HPV.

Dr. Andrea Pelletier, medical director for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said more funding would help expand services, including newer services such as vasectomies, menopause treatment and infertility counseling, although Planned Parenthood does not provide IVF services.

Planned Parenthood currently gets funding from the federal government and donors, but Pelletier said it’s better to have a consistent source of revenue given the fraught political climate around abortion. Planned Parenthood is reimbursed for services through Medicaid, a state-run program that is funded with a blend of federal and state dollars, but it does not otherwise receive state funding – unless L.D. 1478 is approved.

Maine Family Planning and Planned Parenthood temporarily withdrew from Title X federal funding under a 2019 Trump administration gag rule, which prevented doctors from discussing abortion with pregnant patients who were receiving care at the clinics. The Biden administration reversed the gag rule in 2021.

While many states are restricting or banning abortion care after the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision ending Roe v. Wade, Maine has expanded abortion rights, leaving abortion decisions to an individual and their health care provider. Maine had previously prohibited abortion after fetal viability, generally considered 22 to 24 weeks into a pregnancy.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard contributed to this report.

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