Last month, a supporter of Maine Family Planning sent us a copy of a letter he received from U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin about funding for Planned Parenthood. Poliquin went to great lengths to explain his position, but his command of the facts in his own district was embarrassingly inadequate, especially for a man who has represented the 2nd Congressional District for nearly three years.
Poliquin starts off by saying, “it is [critical] for women to receive health care services, especially those mothers caring for children.” I wholeheartedly agree, and I encourage Poliquin to back it up by opposing President Donald Trump’s proposed cut to the Women Infants and Children program and sharp reduction to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. But his statement fails to answer this question: What about access to reproductive health care for low-income women and teens who want to plan their families according to their own facts and circumstances?
He attempts to answer the question here: “In Congress, I’ve voted [ to redirect funding from Planned Parenthood] to increase funding for Federally Qualified Health Centers in Maine’s 2nd District, which provide women’s health care services. Since Maine’s 2nd District does not have any Planned Parenthood locations but is home to 14 FQHC’s, sending funds to these facilities increases access to women’s health care.” Here we have proof that Poliquin is playing it politically safe. Federally qualified health centers meet many community based health needs, but women and teens deserve to be able to make a choice about where they go for confidential family planning services. And they deserve access to abortion care. None of these centers in his district provide such access.
What Poliquin leaves unsaid — perhaps because he has not done his homework — is that Maine Family Planning directly operates 14 women’s health centers in the 2nd District, offering the full range of reproductive health services, from birth control to sexually transmitted disease screening, diagnosis and treatment. And, yes, we also make medication abortion available — entirely with private funds — in every one of these sites, safely and without apology. So if Poliquin has a problem sending federal funds to Planned Parenthood because they provide abortions, he might as well come out and admit he has a problem with Maine Family Planning — and any other health care provider who makes abortion services available in his district.
Maine Family Planning works collaboratively with federally qualified health centers to provide federal and state funds to support family planning, non-abortion-related services in 12 additional communities in Poliquin’s district, in towns where we ourselves are not already located. This brings to 26 the total number of clinic sites now offering reproductive health care in Poliquin’s district, making it possible for nearly 10,000 Maine women and teens — in his district — to control their reproductive lives.
“Rest assured that I will always do my homework within an environment of honesty and transparency in addressing issues important to Maine and our great country,” Poliquin said in the letter.
Maine women and teens should not be assured. Poliquin failed to do his homework about the number of health centers in his district already providing high-quality reproductive health services. Maine women and teens are best served by a diverse system of care, one that accommodates a network of federally qualified health centers, Planned Parenthood health centers and Maine Family Planning-operated women’s health clinics. Such a network of care makes it possible for women and young people to choose where they go for confidential services.
Access to the full range of reproductive health services — including the privately funded abortion care provided by Maine Family Planning and Planned Parenthood — is one of the reasons Maine has had, over the last 10 years, one of the lowest teen pregnancy rates in the nation.
“I have raised my son Sam mostly as a single father since he was in bottles and diapers. As a result, I quickly realized how fragile and precious life is,” Poliquin said in his constituent letter. Life is indeed precious, and life’s value for women is exponentially improved by the ability to make childbearing decisions for themselves.
George A. Hill is president and CEO of Maine Family Planning.