All 12 planned parenthood centers in Vermont are looking to re-enter a federal program known as Title X, which provided affordable, reproductive health care services to those who struggled financially.
Under the Trump Administration, a gag rule forced providers to withhold information from patients about abortions. But with the Biden-Harris Administration lifting this rule, Vermont’s healthcare providers and state leaders want to receive Title X funds once again.
Title X money helped nearly 11,000 low-income or underinsured Vermonters get access to birth control, cancer screenings and other preventive health care. But many deemed the gag rule unethical.
“They just felt like this was place where we have to draw a line in the sand and just say no,” said Lucy Leriche, Vermont’s spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.
When the state left the program in 2019, the Vermont Department of Health and lawmakers and made sure the state could provide these services.
“Regardless of party, everybody said this not the way to go about doing healthcare. You should not be interfering with a patient and her healthcare provider,” said State Senator Becca Balint.
The end to the gag rule ensures providers can properly educate patients of their reproductive choices.
“We will always provide honest and expert care to our patients and that means providing a full range of options in the case of a pregnancy,” said Leriche.
She says it’s appropriate now for the federal government to provide these services to Vermonters.
“Forty-four percent of the people who take advantage of these services, they earn less than $12,000 a year so these are people who probably otherwise wouldn’t otherwise be able to access healthcare,” said Balint.
While an exact date hasn’t been set, Title X funding could come as soon as March or April 2022.
“I’m really proud that Vermont is doing the right thing and make those changes and get everybody the healthcare they deserve and need,” said Burlington mother Kate Root.
Another community member appreciates how the state has continued to prioritize Vermonters’ reproductive rights.
“Having a place where they support you for who you are and what choices you choose to make for yourself and for your body, that is incredibly empowering,” said Burlington resident Sam Wilhoit.
Balint says Proposal 5, a reproductive liberty amendment, is one step away from going all the way through the legislature. If Vermonters support it, the state will become the first in the nation to include reproductive rights in the state’s constitution.