Bangor’s Mabel Wadsworth Center will soon become the first female reproductive healthcare center in Maine to offer the vasectomy, a male healthcare procedure that results in sterilization. This expansion in the Center’s healthcare is expected to take place sometime next month and comes as part of their initiative in furthering reproductive healthcare access to all people, regardless of gender.
The Mabel Wadsworth Center is named for Mabel Wadsworth of New York, a registered nurse who moved to Maine after her graduation from nursing school and devoted herself to providing birth control access for women in rural areas. Wadsworth eventually became the first president of Maine’s Family Planning Association then went on to lend support to the center that now bears her name. She has been awarded both the Maryann Hartman Award and a doctorate of humane letters by the University of Maine.
Her private, non-profit health center expresses its mission as “providing a feminist model focused on sexual and reproductive health through education, advocacy and clinical services,” and is now, along with Portland’s Planned Parenthood and Fort Kent’s Maine Family Planning, one of only three abortion providers in the State.
Abbie Strout, the Mabel Wadsworth Center’s Director of Education and Community Engagement, spoke with the Maine Campus about the center’s introduction of vasectomies, and the medical specifics of such a procedure. Most people in the Bangor area who are currently interested in a vasectomy, she explained, visit a urologist at either the Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center or a private practice.
“While we can’t necessarily predict wait time, we do anticipate that our fees will be lower because we offer MabelCare, a sliding scale program for uninsured folks to get discounted services,” Strout said.
The payment options for those interested in the procedure will be divided into three separate brackets: people earning less than $18,735 each year will only be charged $525; people earning $18,735-31,000 will be expected to pay $750; and all persons making more than an approximate $31,000 each year, will be billed a total of $1,000. In order to maintain its independence, the Mabel Wadsworth Center refuses to accept any federal government funding, with the exception of Medicare and Medicaid.
“We will be the only provider in the region who is culturally competent in serving people who are transgender or non-binary,” Strout explained. “We decided to offer [vasectomies] because it fits within our mission and we heard that there was a need in the community.”
UMaine students have, since the Mabel Wadsworth Center’s creation in 1984, used many of its services, such as screenings for cancer and sexually transmitted diseases and other types of care ranging from hormone therapy to annual wellness exams. For privacy reasons, the Mabel Wadsworth Center does not keep specific data on its patients but estimates the number of UMaine students it services each year to be significant.
As part of its local outreach, the University’s Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Department has created a community partnership with the Mabel Wadsworth Center. Currently, the department has two of its faculty members, Jacquelyn Gill, an associate professor of paleoecology, and Liliana Herakova, a professor of journalism and communications, on the Mabel Wadsworth Center’s board of directors.
“The Mabel Wadsworth Center is committed to providing informed, client-centered, non-judgmental healthcare to everyone, regardless of gender, race, sexuality, age, etc.,” Herakova said. “The addition of vasectomies to their already long list of services supports that commitment, extending affordable sexual and reproductive care to even more people. I think these are all important steps to supporting and enhancing the health of our community, which is why I became a client and joined the board of the Mabel Wadsworth Center, and is also why the health communication class I teach at the University of Maine collaborates with them.”
“We here in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program are excited to see the continued expansion of the services available at Mabel Wadsworth Center,” Susan Gardner, the director of the Rising Tide Center and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies program at UMaine, told the Maine Campus. “The most recent addition of vasectomy services demonstrates Mabel Wadsworth’s commitment to reproductive care for all genders. We’re happy to be a proud supporter of their work.”
The Center’s first number of vasectomies will be performed by a physician working in tandem with a nurse practitioner. Each patient will be required to attend a consultation before and after the procedure. Although only one nurse practitioner is currently being instructed in the procedure, the Center may decide to train more nurse practitioners if there is enough demand.