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Bruce Poliquin is Out of Touch with Maine Voters

February 23, 2017

As part of an unprecedented increase in nationwide grassroots activism, Mabel Wadsworth Center and Planned Parenthood supporters came together to call out Congressman Bruce Poliquin for failing to stand up for women’s healthcare at an event outside his Bangor office this morning.

Remarks by Andrea Irwin, Executive Director, Mabel Wadsworth Center

Good morning. My name is Andrea Irwin. I am the Executive Director of Mabel Wadsworth Center here in Bangor. Since 1984, we have provided sexual and reproductive health care to our community.  We serve more than 1,200 patients a year and provide more than 3,000 total clinical visits. As a not-for-profit, independent feminist health center, we do not accept federal or state funds other than reimbursements through Medicaid and Medicare.

While we do offer reduced fees for people without insurance, we have limited funding to do so, and are well aware how important health coverage is for women of the second district and all of Maine.  Before the Affordable Care Act, women were less likely to get the health care they need in a timely manner, because they were either uninsured or underinsured and faced high deductibles that made their preventive care, including birth control, unaffordable.

I cannot overstate how significant the impact the ACA has been for women in our community because we see firsthand the women benefiting at our health center every single day. We know that women often make decisions about health care based on costs and many would otherwise delay or even skip care altogether. And it goes beyond health; access to health care is critical to helping women take care of their own health and be able to go to work or school, take care of their families, and achieve financial stability.

We also know many Mainers depend upon Planned Parenthood for health care and even more support both Planned Parenthood and Mabel Wadsworth Center for the critical care each of our organizations provide. This support doesn’t evaporate when you travel between Congressional districts. The fact is Planned Parenthood patients come from all over the state including people we refer to them.

Quite simply, we know Congressman Poliquin is wrong.  We know our supporters understand the importance of both Planned Parenthood and the entire network of family planning providers in our state.  Together we are the sexual and reproductive health care experts in Maine and a critical safety net for women with low income. Bruce Poliquin’s stances on the ACA and Planned Parenthood are out of touch with his constituents here in the 2nd Congressional district.

It is unacceptable for him to bury his head in the sand and claim that taking away access to health care for millions of people does not impact our community and the constituents he was elected to serve. Our community needs and seeks health care at physicians’ offices, hospitals and independent providers like us. And they also go to Planned Parenthood.

At both Planned Parenthood and Mabel Wadsworth Center, we offer a unique space and atmosphere that is compassionate and nonjudgmental. We see women who have never felt comfortable seeking health care in other places. They may be afraid, embarrassed, ashamed, or just overwhelmed. While federally qualified health centers are certainly well-suited to provide general health care to many of these folks, there are numerous reasons beyond geography a person might need to seek health care elsewhere.

In rural, remote communities, like many here in the 2nd District, a woman might not feel comfortable getting birth control from her boss’s husband or ex-boyfriend’s new wife who happen to be health center staff. We are able to offer a higher level of privacy, anonymity, and confidentiality. Additionally, there are services that we at Mabel Wadsworth and Planned Parenthood provide that are part of our comprehensive approach to women’s health and overall wellness.

We offer both a full range of contraceptive services with high-quality, expert care; and offer hours that accommodate women’s busy lives compared to other safety net providers, such as federally qualified health centers (FQHC) and health departments.

Other health centers also recognize our unique expertise – In one study of Community Health Centers (CHCs) 69 percent reported referring their patients to family planning providers, like Planned Parenthood health centers, for family planning care.

Congressman Poliquin is just out of touch with the ways his constituents in this district access health care. His map 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, they certainly aren’t able to provide the same services as Planned Parenthood. It’s no wonder the American Public Health Association says it’s “ludicrous” for politicians to claim that other providers could simply absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients.

Mabel Wadsworth Center and our supporters are proud to stand with Planned Parenthood today and every day. We also stand with the majority of Americans; the 7 in 10 Americans who support Planned Parenthood.

When Planned Parenthood, our nation’s largest provider of reproductive health care, is under attack, we are all under attack. Instead of standing up for his constituents to protect our care, Bruce Poliquin suggests that Planned Parenthood patients can get care elsewhere – and then offers up school-based health centers and nursing homes!

His response shows how deeply disconnected he is from women’s lives and the importance of access to reproductive health services to our community.

We call on Congressman Poliquin to support both Planned Parenthood and the broader Affordable Care Act’s benefits for women’s health. The women and families of the second district deserve it.


Remarks by Catherine Kurr, Patient and Board Member, Mabel Wadsworth Center

Good morning, my name is Catherine Kurr. I am a both board member and patient of Mabel Wadsworth Center and have worked to support women my entire career as an advocate for victims of domestic abuse. I am speaking out today because I have personally benefitted from the Affordable Care Act’s women’s health provision and have seen its impact on women served by Mabel Wadsworth Center and in our community.

I feel incredibly fortunate because I have always had health insurance through my employer. Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA), I had a plan with a high deductible and had to pay out of pocket for monthly birth control and ultimately was unhappy with the way my body responded to the pill. I talked to my provider at Mabel Wadsworth Center and learned about the options available to me and decided an IUD would be the best choice. Thanks to the ACA’s women’s health benefits, I was able to get an IUD, my preferred method of birth control, last year, at no cost. Without the ACA coverage, my out-of-pocket cost would have been about $800 — about the same amount I pay for my monthly mortgage payment.  While I may have still made the decision to eventually get the IUD and pay out-of-pocket, doing so would have had a significant impact on my household budget and I would have been forced to wait until I had saved up the money.   Instead, I was relieved to be able to get the health care I needed without delay.

For me, having an IUD means peace of mind – the device I chose lasts up to 5 years. I don’t have to think about taking a pill every day or pick up prescriptions, and my overall health has improved since starting the IUD. But, even more important, it means I have the ability to make decisions about my own body, to be empowered to decide what’s best for me and my life right now. Because of birth control, I am able to work full-time, be an active member of my community, without having to worry about an unintended pregnancy.

Having worked in the field of advocacy on behalf of women for more than 10 years, I also know the ACA has made a difference to the lives of other women in our community, especially those who have lower income or are self-employed. The ACA has given many Mainers health coverage for the first time, allowing them the ability to access health care and take better care of themselves. For women, the impact has been substantial. The preventive health benefits cover much more than birth control and include annual well-woman visits and cancer screenings like pap smears and mammograms; HIV and STI testing and treatment; breastfeeding supplies and counseling; as well as interpersonal violence screenings and counseling services. Because of the ACA, women are better able to manage their own healthcare, and pursue their educational and professional goals. They are also more likely to be able to get the support they need to be free from abuse and recover from the trauma caused by violence.

It is essential that Congressman Poliquin and the rest of Maine’s Congressional delegation protect women’s health care by opposing any efforts to repeal the ACA. 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.

Thank you.