BANGOR – At one of more than 300 events happening across the country in support of Planned Parenthood and access to reproductive healthcare, supporters called on Congressman Bruce Poliquin to stand up for women’s access to health care and delivered a petition with more than 650 signatures in support of Planned Parenthood.
“For many people, Planned Parenthood is their only access to health care. It’s the only way a young woman like me will find out she has cervical cancer, and in time to treat it,” said Diana Turner of Stonington, a former Planned Parenthood patient. During an annual exam at Planned Parenthood, one of Turner’s Pap tests revealed pre-cancerous cells. Early detection is critical in treating cervical cancer and Turner credits Planned Parenthood with saving her life. “Planned Parenthood was there for me and I want to do everything I can to make sure they are there for my children and my grandchildren.”
Planned Parenthood health centers in Maine see patients from every county. According to a recent poll, 1 in 5 respondents in the second Congressional District have used a Planned Parenthood health center and 1 in 3 have friends or family who have depended upon Planned Parenthood for vital care.
“People don’t go to Planned Parenthood to make a political statement, they go there for affordable, quality health care,” said Nicole Clegg, Vice President of Public Policy of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. “Here in Maine, the health centers see more than 10,000 patients each year, more than half of whom live at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Level. For many of our patients, Planned Parenthood is there only access to health care. Without us, they would have nowhere else to go.”
Congressman Poliquin has suggested community health centers and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) could replace Planned Parenthood, an idea that has been resoundingly dismissed by experts. Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, called the idea “ludicrous.”
“Congressman Poliquin is just out of touch with the ways his constituents in this district access health care,” said Andrea Irwin, Executive Director of the Mabel Wadsworth Center. “His map of FQHCs includes the Bangor homeless shelter, Dirigo Pines, a retirement home in Orono, and a nursing home in Howland. While I have no doubt that the residents at these locations get access to the services they need, these facilities certainly aren’t able to provide the same services as Planned Parenthood.”
Supporters also called on the Congressman for failing to ensure essential health benefits for women under the Affordable Care Act are preserved.
“Reproductive health care is basic health care,” said Catherine Kurr, who was able to obtain an IUD, a long-acting reversible contraceptive, under the Affordable Care Act. “Because of the ACA, women are better able to manage their own health care, and pursue their educational and professional goals. Without affordable health care options, especially birth control and other preventive health care, women in Maine and across the country will suffer. As our representative, we need Congressman Poliquin to stand up on behalf of women’s health and Maine people.”
Despite expressing support for the critical healthcare services Planned Parenthood provides, Congressman Poliquin has flipped and voted six times to “defund” the healthcare provider. He has repeatedly flip-flopped on the Affordable Care Act, declaring during his campaign he would “End Obamacare,” voting against repeal in 2015, and now says he will support repeal of the ACA.
“It’s clear Congressman Poliquin is out of touch with the needs of half his constituents,” said Clegg. “Women need access to basic health care and that includes reproductive health care. Sadly, it seems Congressman Poliquin just doesn’t get it.”
Today’s event was part of Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s Week of Action. Across the country, Planned Parenthood supporters are flooding their elected officials’ town halls and public events, as well as hosting their own events to make their voices heard and show opposition to defunding Planned Parenthood. In February, Planned Parenthood and its supporters are holding more than 300 events, many of which occurred this week during the congressional recess.
Background on Planned Parenthood “defunding”
Planned Parenthood affiliates are non-profit health care providers that receive reimbursements for providing preventive health care services like cancer screenings and birth control to low-income patients. “Defunding” Planned Parenthood would prohibit Planned Parenthood from receiving reimbursement for services provided to patients insured by federal programs like Medicaid and Medicare. The impact of this measure would be significant as 25% of Planned Parenthood health center operations in Maine are supported by reimbursements from Medicaid.
The funds at risk are for preventive health care including annual exams, cancer screenings, disease testing and treatment, birth control and a variety of medical treatments for reproductive and sexual health, which accounts for 95% of what we do. Due to federal prohibitions, these funds do not pay for abortion.
Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit membership organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England in Maine. The Action Fund engages in educational and electoral activity, including voter education, grassroots organizing, and legislative advocacy.