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Orange alert for women in Maine

In the wake of cuts to both Title X, the federal family-planning funding mechanism that provides more than $300 million for health screenings, birth control, and prenatal care (but not abortions) nationwide, and Planned Parenthood (which gets about $75 million annually from the federal government -- none of which can be spent on abortion services), the Maine Choice Coalition held a press conference today, encouraging Mainers contact senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and urge them to vote against such cuts when a similar bill comes before the US Senate.

Jenna Vendil, grassroots organizer for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, called the cuts, which came in late February, "the most devastating attack on women's healthcare in history."

On the state level, Governor Paul LePage's proposed budget calls for an additional reduction of more than $400,000 for family planning programs --  decrease of close to a third, according to the Family Planning Association of Maine. There are 45 family planning centers in Maine; these served more than 27,000 women and averted about 5600 unwanted pregnancies. (Maine has the third lowest teen pregnancy rate in the US.)

Planned Parenthood clinics, of which there are four in Maine (Portland, Biddeford, Sanford, and Topsham), administered more than 2500 Pap tests (which screen for cervical cancer) and more than 14,000 screenings for sexually transmitted infection, along with annual exams, birth control administration, pregnancy testing, and UTI treatment. 

Should the funding cuts stick (pro-choice observers are optimistic that the Democratic-controlled Senate will not allow them to), it's likely that some clinics would close and some providers would lose their jobs. 

Shenna Bellows, of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, also pointed out that there are several bills floating around in Augusta that would limit abortion rights in Maine, including bills that call for waiting periods and parental notification.

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