AUGUSTA — Democratic leaders in the Maine Legislature said Thursday they intend to fight a “baseless” attack against Planned Parenthood by a trio of Republican lawmakers planning to sponsor legislation to cut funds to the organization.
Planned Parenthood, which provides low or no-cost health care and other services to women, including cancer screenings, birth control and abortions, receives federal funding from the Medicaid and Medicare programs. The organization also receives about half of its funding from private sources.
Sen. Dawn Hill, D-Cape Neddick, and Rep. Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, promised to oppose the legislation when it goes before the Legislative Council, which will vote on which bills the Legislature will take up when it reconvenes in January.
Hill, the Senate’s assistant minority leader, and Gideon, the House’s assistant majority leader, also sit on the Legislative Council, which is made up of the caucus leaders in both chambers as well as the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House.
“Bills targeting Planned Parenthood are nothing more than catnip for the most radical elements of the GOP,” Hill said in a prepared statement. “There is no stronger partner in women’s health than Planned Parenthood.”
Hill and Gideon said Planned Parenthood provides health care services to about 10,000 Maine women each year.
Planned Parenthood has been in the spotlight nationally as anti-abortion conservatives targeted federal funds for the organization as part of the most recent federal budget debate. Abortion foes have seized on a series of undercover videos that purportedly show a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic manager discussing the sale of fetal tissue for research.
“The extremist agenda against basic reproductive health care has landed in Maine,” Gideon said, also in a prepared statement.”We do not want to import this political sideshow from Washington, D.C. Make no mistake about it, this is an attempt to limit women’s access to safe and legal abortion.”
Gideon and Hill were responding to an opinion column penned by Republican state Reps. Richard Pickett of Dixfield, Mary Anne Kinney of Knox and Beth Turner of Burlington titled, “Put an End to Planned Parenthood.”
In the column, the representatives wrote, “put a stop to the unlawful use of taxpayer dollars to fund abortion that might result in the harvesting and selling of baby body parts.”
The three said in the column that they will sponsor legislation to cut funds to the organization.
Gideon and Hill said Planned Parenthood Maine clinics do not participate in any fetal tissue donation programs. They also pointed out that the state Legislature has no control over the federal funds that go to Planned Parenthood.
The Democratic lawmakers also reiterated that abortions make up only a small portion of health care provided to men and women in Maine by Planned Parenthood.
According a release issued by Hill and Gideon, 90 percent of the services provided by Planned Parenthood in Maine are for cancer screenings, birth control, prevention and treatment of STDs, breast health services, Pap tests, sexual health education, information and health counseling.