Planned Parenthood of Northern New England was recently forced out of Title X, the nation’s decades-old program for affordable birth control and reproductive health care. PPNNE has been a part of the program since it was created nearly 50 years ago, and was the sole health-care provider to the 11,000 Vermonters who participated in the Title X program in the past year.

When the Trump administration imposed a dangerous, unethical rule that calls for the government to interfere with the doctor-patient relationship, Gov. Phil Scott, the Vermont Department of Health and PPNNE each came to the same conclusion: Vermont must leave the Title X program. The “gag rule” requires Title X providers to withhold abortion information from patients. It is a clear violation of medical ethics and standards of care.

PPNNE’s health-care providers are not going to conceal any information from our patients in exchange for federal funding, and we particularly refuse to let the Trump administration bully us into withholding information about safe, legal abortion.

We’re incredibly grateful to the Vermont Legislature and Governor Scott for reserving state funds to ensure services like affordable birth control, STD testing and treatment, and cancer screenings can continue for the 11,000 Vermonters who need this care.

The people across the state of Vermont who have participated in the Title X program are struggling to make ends meet. This past year, 77 % of these patients were living at or below 250 % [of] the federal poverty level. These Vermonters, our neighbors, are of all genders, ages, races, and many live in rural areas.

As in many areas of the country, Vermont is facing a primary-care provider shortage. The reality is no other health-care organization in Vermont has stepped forward to say they have the capacity to absorb all of Planned Parenthood’s 11,000 Title X patients, and we appreciate that our elected officials entrusted us to continue providing their care.

In the meantime, there are ongoing court cases where we, along with Attorney General T.J. Donovan, are working to get the “gag rule” blocked. However, we simply cannot rely on courts alone to undo this damage. In June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a spending package, including strong language blocking the Trump administration’s Title X gag rule from being implemented. Now, the Senate must push for a spending bill that includes protective language to make sure millions of people across the country and here at home can resume accessing health care through Title X.

We applaud Governor Scott and the Vermont Legislature for swiftly addressing the gap left by the federal government when we were forced to leave the Title X program. We are fully committed to consistently providing quality, affordable health care to everyone who needs it.

And to our patients, everyone regardless of ZIP code, income, insurance, race or identity, deserves expert health care and accurate reproductive health information. Our doors are open, and we’re here to provide you care — no matter what.

Meagan Gallagher is president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

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