A Huge Leap Forward: Expanding Access to Abortion in Maine

Across the United States, reproductive health clinics are struggling to keep their doors open in the face of state-imposed restrictions, provider shortages, and hostile anti-choice environments. Since 2011, 162 clinics have closed, while only 21 new centers have opened.

As of today, things look different in Maine.

Maine Family Planning is increasing access to medication abortion in underserved and rural communities through the use of telemedicine technology. Patients who would otherwise have to drive long distances to access services in Bangor, Augusta, or Portland may now be able to access care at an additional 16 Maine Family Planning centers.

With this expansion, Maine joins Iowa and Minnesota as one of only three states where abortion services are known to be available via telemedicine.** Despite its relative rarity, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has formally recognized that telemedicine “can help to bring this safe, effective method of reproductive care to the women who need it.” This hasn’t stopped 18 states from enacting bans on the use of telemedicine for medication abortion.

The right to abortion is meaningless if you can’t get to the clinic. 

Our decision to provide medication abortion via telemedicine is driven by a commitment to access. While abortion is legal in Maine and throughout the United States, it’s not always accessible to those with few resources, including those who live in rural communities.

In a large, rural state like Maine, it’s not uncommon for patients to have to drive several hundreds of miles to access services. This distance presents a significant barrier, as patients must find childcare, miss work, and pay for travel on top of the cost of the procedure– which an overwhelming majority of people pay for out-of-pocket. Reducing this barrier means that patients are more likely to be able to access the care they need safely and affordably, with fewer negative impacts on their lives.

We are committed to ensuring that all Maine people have meaningful access to the full range of reproductive health care, regardless of where they live or how much they earn.

For decades, Maine Family Planning, Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center, and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England have provided compassionate abortion care and worked hard to protect reproductive rights for all Mainers– and we will continue to do so. Currently, we are working with these partners and the ACLU of Maine to challenge the state’s ban on Medicaid coverage for abortion.

The right to abortion is meaningless if you can’t afford care.

We’re proud to build upon the work of Reproductive Rights organizations in Maine and beyond to make abortion a realistic choice—and not just a legal right—for Mainers in underserved and rural communities. We are grateful for your support and partnership along the way.
**In August 2016, we learned that Alaska has also been providing medication abortion via telemedicine for a number of years.


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