We stand with Planned Parenthood.

Our support is matched only by our dismay and disappointment with the extremists, in Congress and in Maine, who would turn those five simple words into a divisive, political flash point.

But why should our dedication to women’s health care be controversial? And what organization is more deserving of that support?

Planned Parenthood provides critical public health services to women, men and young people in our state. More than 10,000 Mainers turn to Planned Parenthood for breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control, STD treatment and screening, preventative health care, education, counseling and, yes, safe and legal abortion services.

It’s not only the largest provider of these services in Maine, but it is far and away the largest reproductive health care provider in the country. In fact, if not for Planned Parenthood, many of its patients might not receive care at all. Here in Maine, more than half of its patients receive free or sliding-scale care.

So don’t be fooled. While there are other, smaller providers, attacks on Planned Parenthood are attacks on women’s access to quality, affordable and safe reproductive health care.

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We’ve come to expect these kinds of baseless political attacks in Congress. There, fringe members of the Republican Party threaten to hold all of America hostage for their extremist agenda of defunding Planned Parenthood and rolling back women’s access to health care.

Now, that extremist agenda has landed in Maine in the form of a bill submitted to the Maine Legislature. We do not want to import this political sideshow from Washington, D.C.

Make no mistake about it: This effort is not about Planned Parenthood. It’s not about widely discredited and doctored videos created by a group with links to anti-choice extremists who plotted to bomb women’s health clinics and murdered a doctor. It’s not even about the use of taxpayer dollars.

Instead, it is a cynical attempt to further erode access to safe and legal abortion. The bill is a dog whistle to extremists who oppose a woman’s right to decide when they have children, and who want to interfere in personal decisions that are best left to women and their doctors.

Women don’t turn to politicians for guidance about cervical cancer screenings or mammograms, and politicians shouldn’t involve themselves in a woman’s private, medical decisions about pregnancy.

Luckily, those who would undermine women’s access to health care in the name of their extreme agenda face an uphill battle in our state. Mainers overwhelmingly support Planned Parenthood and the services it provides.

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A recent poll by Hart Research Associates shows that seven out of 10 Mainers oppose congressional Republicans’ efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, with 55 percent of Mainers describing their opposition as “strong.” Women, those most likely to be familiar with Planned Parenthood and its work, are unequivocal in their support. Hart Research Associates found that positive attitudes toward the organization outweigh negative ones among women voters in Maine, 62 percent to 18 percent.

The poll also shows that Mainers are not easily fooled by these cynical tactics: 67 percent say the congressional Republicans’ fixation on Planned Parenthood is meant to “score political points.”

So when we proudly proclaim, “We stand with Planned Parenthood,” we know we represent Mainers of conscience who constitute the vast majority of people in our state. We stand with them in supporting women, and in defending those who provide essential health services from baseless, coordinated political attacks.

We know well the problems facing our state: We need more, good-paying jobs. We need faster, smarter economic growth to pull ourselves up from the bottom of the pack. We must invest in education and workforce development to prepare for the future, and prioritize access to affordable, clean energy.

What we don’t need are pointless political distractions shipped up I-95 from Washington, D.C.

As leaders in the Legislature, we pledge to fight those bills that will distract from the issues facing our state. There’s simply too much real work to be done.

Sen. Dawn Hill of York and Rep. Sara Gideon of Freeport are the assistant democratic leaders of the Senate and House, respectively.


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