Tag Archives: rural

What Does Net Neutrality Have to do with Reproductive Rights?

Congress can save Net Neutrality

Via BattleForTheNet.com

You may have heard that earlier this month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)—helmed by Trump appointee Ajit Pai—voted to gut the open internet principle known as Net Neutrality. This move is direct threat to women’s health, reproductive justice, and all movements that use the Internet to educate, organize, and fight back. But there’s still a chance to save the Internet as we know it.

Enacted in 2015, Net Neutrality prohibits internet service providers (ISPs) like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon from speeding up, slowing down, or blocking any content, applications, or websites you want to use.

As such, “It preserves our right to communicate freely online,” says the advocacy group Free Press. “Net Neutrality means an internet that enables and protects free speech. It means that ISPs should provide us with open networks—and shouldn’t block or discriminate against any applications or content that ride over those networks. Just as your phone company shouldn’t decide who you call and what you say on that call, your ISP shouldn’t interfere with the content you view or post online.”

Experts have pointed out how dismantling Net Neutrality could impact everyone from those involved in the #MeToo movement, to communities of color, to small business owners, to low-income people.

“Particularly damning is what today’s repeal will mean for marginalized groups, like communities of color, that rely on platforms like the internet to communicate, because traditional outlets do not consider their issues or concerns, worthy of any coverage,” wrote FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn in her dissenting opinion to the December 14 vote.

And doing away with Net Neutrality could really hurt women, the reproductive justice movement, and anyone who needs the kind of reproductive health care services we provide here at Maine Family Planning.

“Without a free and open internet, anti-choice extremists could pay to block access to accurate information about reproductive health,” NARAL Pro-Choice America recently warned. “Imagine a world where a woman searches the internet but can find no information on how to access an abortion.”

Once upon a time, that might have sounded far-fetched. But given the Trump administration’s transparent war on women, it’s a future sadly worth considering…and girding against.

What’s more, the end of Net Neutrality could spell trouble for Maine Family Planning’s groundbreaking telemedicine services, which include abortion care. Loosening the reins on mega-telecom companies and allowing them to engage in something called “paid prioritization”—establishing “fast lanes” for sites that pay, and slow lanes for everyone else—would be bad news for rural patients who access health care services at home.

As Modern Healthcare reported:

Those differing speeds could hurt telemedicine since it requires a “pretty robust connection,” said Mei Kwong, interim executive director and policy adviser for the Center for Connected Health Policy. “The last thing you want is for the interaction to suddenly freeze or the audio to go out or for the picture to be pixelated.”

Similarly, a panel of public health experts wrote in Health Affairs earlier this year:

Increasingly, telemedicine is being used to bring higher-end health care services to remote and rural areas to reduce health disparities. For telemedicine to be scalable and positively impact cost and outcomes, there must be a predictable infrastructure connecting patients, care providers, and technology. A prerequisite for telemedicine is broadband connectivity between telehealth sites. Reliable low cost service for telehealth is potentially threatened by the loss of [Net Neutrality or NN]. What happens to telehealth if Netflix traffic is preferred above medical applications? Could Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offer better services for one hospital system than another, helping them take over telehealth in a region? The undoing of NN weakens the infrastructure of reliable low cost connectivity that telehealth systems depend upon.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also declared in a letter to the FCC before the vote:

“AAP is opposed to the implementation of paid prioritization because of its detrimental effects on the elimination of health disparities, efficiency of healthcare, and access to health information by parents and caregiver. If healthcare providers do not have the financial resources necessary to purchase priority Internet access, they may not be able to provide the efficacious, patient-centered, cost effective care recommended as part of the ongoing transformation and reform of our nation’s healthcare system.”

Every day, Maine Family Planning works to increase health care access for rural and low-income women. Undoing Net Neutrality puts that access at risk.

Congress can still step in to restore the open Internet that the general public wants and deserves by overturning the FCC’s order through a joint resolution under the Congressional Review Act. Write or call your Member of Congress now.

In Maine, Rep. Bruce Poliquin in particular needs to hear from us.

Learn more at battleforthenet.com.

Yes on Question 2 is a Vote for Women’s Health

Maine Family Planning is part of a statewide coalition working to pass Medicaid expansion on November 7th. Here, our community organizer Cait Vaughan shares a little more about why Yes on 2 is a vote for Maine women.

As the community organizer for Maine Family Planning, I’ve spent the last couple of months talking about little else but Medicaid expansion and the opportunity to vote YES on statewide ballot Question 2 on November 7th. Along with our incredible UMaine Orono intern and MFP volunteers, I have been making phone calls, speaking at events, engaging patients in the clinic waiting room, and (most importantly) knocking on doors to encourage Mainers to vote in favor of expanding this critical program. Back in May, I wrote about Medicaid as a feminist issue and how this joint federal and state-funded program is a crucial aspect of the family planning safety net. With Election Day rapidly approaching, I wanted to focus in a bit more on why we at MFP view expanding Medicaid—known as MaineCare in our state—as a vote in favor of women’s health and autonomy.

MFP serves roughly 21,000 patients each year across our 18 clinics that span 12 of the state’s 16 counties.  Roughly a quarter of our patients receive Medicaid right now, which makes sense, considering that women receiving Medicaid are more likely than those on private insurance to receive gynecological care at a family planning clinic or Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) instead of a private physician’s office. Women receiving Medicaid are also significantly more likely than those with private insurance or uninsured women to speak with their providers about important issues like contraceptives, sexual history, HIV, and domestic violence. Another 38% of patients who visit our clinics utilize the sliding scale payment option, largely due to a lack of access to health insurance.  This means that many women rely on us as their sole health care provider, and they are some of the folks who will be most positively impacted by expansion. While our clinicians provide excellent and compassionate care, patients need access to the full range of health care services in order to lead lives of dignity, opportunity, and self-determination. Those qualities truly encapsulate our greater mission as a health care provider and advocate in the feminist tradition of improving women’s lives.

One of our greatest contributions as a provider might be the advances we’ve made—via telehealth services—to improve access to sexual and reproductive health care in Maine’s rural and low-income communities. Voting Yes on 2 would allow us to go even farther. Half of the state’s current MaineCare recipients live in rural areas, and MaineCare provides coverage for many telehealth services (not currently inclusive of abortion care). Expanding Medicaid could complement the steps we’ve already taken to ensure that crucial health care services are available to our patients in rural towns like Fort Kent, Machias, and Rumford. MaineCare expansion can assist patients in overcoming economic barriers to health care that are compounded by geography and a sorely lacking public transportation infrastructure.

As a Title X provider, it’s also important to note that Medicaid has become the most significant public funding source for family planning services in the past decade. Medicaid’s funding for family planning outpaces even federal Title X, which is consistently targeted for cuts and has not been able to keep up with the rising costs of delivering care. We experience firsthand the many ways that access to a quality public health insurance program like Medicaid supports improvements in women’s health, the benefits of which have a ripple effect on our entire statewide community. We hope you’ll join us in voting Yes on 2 on Tuesday, November 7th and take an important step in making women’s health in Maine the way it should be.

If you’d like to volunteer a few hours of your time to support Yes on 2, you can join a special canvass of Friends of Repro Rights jointly led by Maine Family Planning & Planned Parenthood this coming Monday, October 30th in Augusta. Find full details & register here.

Sources/For More Information:

New Abortion Data: A Clarion Call to Family Planning Advocates

On Thursday, the Guttmacher Institute released a new analysis published in the American Journal of Public Health, giving insight into US abortion trends.

The data is fascinating and Maine Family Planning views it as a clarion call to continue and expand the work we’re doing in our clinics, in court, and in our communities.

The report from Guttmacher shows an overall decline in the US abortion rate between 2008-2014. Despite the 25 percent decline, abortion is still a common procedure in this country; one in four American women will have an abortion by age 45. Deep disparities remain among different demographic groups, with abortion increasingly concentrated among poor women and a long history of racism and discrimination contributing to differences in the abortion rate according to race and ethnicity.

These findings underscore the important work Maine Family Planning is doing to increase contraceptive use and abortion access around the state, as well as how much is at stake amid political attacks on reproductive health care nationwide. We see a declining abortion rate as a victory only if it is rooted in advances in comprehensive, affordable reproductive health care and the political and social conditions to support reproductive self-determination for everyone. Unfortunately, at least some of the recent decline can be attributed to politically-motivated & medically unnecessary state-level abortion restrictions that prevent women in many states from accessing care when they need it. Additionally, it’s clear that quality health care services remain financially out of reach for some Americans, rendering them unable to effectively plan pregnancies. As the hostile Trump administration continues its assault on health care, we fear these factors will only become more pronounced.

Our focus remains on empowering women to avoid unintended pregnancies via highly effective contraceptive methods, to be able to access abortion when they need to, and to make decisions based on their own visions of the families they want. Maine Family Planning is battling on many fronts to achieve full access to reproductive freedom: From offering comprehensive prevention programming in schools and long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) in our clinics; to providing innovative abortion care via telemedicine; to fighting in court to expand Medicaid coverage for abortions and overturn Maine’s burdensome law prohibiting nurse practitioners from providing abortion; to working with like-minded groups on the upcoming Yes on 2 vote to make Maine the first state to expand Medicaid by referendum. Guttmacher’s latest statistics prove that our work remains vital and necessary.

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.  Continue reading