A Bangor clinic that has long provided abortions and other health services for women will soon offer its first birth control procedure for men.
In October, a nurse practitioner at the Mabel Wadsworth Center will begin performing vasectomies on men — as well as on transgender women — as part of its growing mission to meet the sexual and reproductive health needs of all genders and identities, according to Executive Director Andrea Irwin.
“We’ve seen a lot of folks come in with an unintended pregnancy and their partner is waiting to get a vasectomy,” Irwin said. “We’ve heard it’s hard to get into places [for the procedure], so it made sense to look into offering it. And as a provider that serves a lot of trans clients, we want to serve trans women in a place that’s open and affirming.”
Irwin said that the new offering will advance the clinic’s bedrock feminist mission by forcing sexual partners to bear more of the responsibility for preventing pregnancy.
By offering vasectomies, the group also hopes to bring in a new funding stream to support its core mission of offering abortions, as it has been doing since 1994, and other services such as birth control and pregnancy and STD testing.
A vasectomy is a surgical procedure that blocks sperm from leaving the bodies of men and transgender women by snipping and sealing the tubes connecting their testicles to their urethral opening, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Although vasectomies can be reversed, health professionals generally urge patients to view it as a permanent procedure that they should only pursue if they want to give up the ability to induce a pregnancy.
At the Mabel Wadsworth Center, the operation will generally require three appointments: an initial consultation, the procedure itself and a followup visit. The nonprofit organization will accept MaineCare or private health insurance for the service, and patients who are paying out of pocket may qualify for discounts depending on their income level.
Patients whose annual income is at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level — that level works out to $18,735 for an individual in 2019, according to HealthCare.gov — will be able to pay $525 for the vasectomy. That’s the same price the center charges anyone for an abortion.
The out-of-pocket cost for other patients seeking a vasectomy would be $750 if their income is at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level — $31,225 for an individual — and $1,000 for everyone else.
Those numbers could change as the center begins to see how much reimbursement it collects from patients with insurance, Irwin said.
“We want to send the message that everyone deserves access to reproductive health care, regardless of gender identity, where they live, their income level,” she said.
Maine’s two other abortion providers, Maine Family Planning and Planned Parenthood, do not currently offer vasectomies at their locations in the Pine Tree State, according to their websites.
While vasectomies will be the first birth control service available to men at the Mabel Wadsworth Center, the clinic has begun offering STD testing and treatment to men in recent years. As it branches out, it has also begun offering hormone therapy for transgender people, prenatal care and mental health counseling.
It recently hired a nurse practitioner to serve as the center’s clinical director, according to Irwin. It also now employs an advocate who can help connect patients to resources such as MaineCare, the state’s version of Medicaid.
Irwin said that a combination of grant funding and the state’s expansion of Medicaid under Gov. Janet Mills has helped the Mabel Wadsworth Center afford to start its new programs.