AUGUSTA — Three Republican state lawmakers are joining a national push to block the disbursement of federal funds to Planned Parenthood.

Reps. Richard Pickett of Dixfield, Mary Anne Kinney of Knox and Beth P. Turner of Burlington announced their plan to propose legislation in a column published in the Sun Journal in Lewiston.

The three said they were motivated by the release of secretly recorded videos produced by an anti-abortion group that showed Planned Parenthood officials talking about how they provide fetal tissue from abortions for medical research. Critics of Planned Parenthood asserted that the discussion was about the sale of fetal tissue, but the organization has vehemently denied that, saying it is paid only for the cost of the procedure and receives the woman’s consent before giving the tissue to researchers.

The battle over the videos made the national stage this week when Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards jousted with Republican lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee. Richards said the allegations were “offensive and categorically untrue.”

The proposal advanced by the Maine lawmakers illustrates how the politically charged controversy has flowed into state Legislatures. However, it’s unlikely that their proposal will even become a bill during the legislative session that begins in January.

First, the bill must clear the Legislative Council, a committee comprising Democratic and Republican leadership. The panel is evenly divided and a split vote would mean that the proposal will not become a bill for the next session.


Democratic leaders already have signaled that the proposal is doomed.

“Bills targeting Planned Parenthood are nothing more than catnip for the most radical elements of the GOP,” Sen. Dawn Hill, D-Cape Neddick and a member of the Legislative Council, said in a statement. “There is no stronger partner in women’s health than Planned Parenthood. All Mainers of conscience must stand up to these cynical political attacks against women’s right to access quality, safe, affordable health care.”

Rep. Sara Gideon, the assistant House leader and a member of the council, said Democrats “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.”

In their column, the three representatives wrote, “Any human being of good character and clear conscience should realize that selling baby organs and limbs for money is wrong, and pretending that these videos are ‘doctored’ or altered in some way is absurd.”

The three wrote that the videos “clearly show how Planned Parenthood employees are carefully and deliberately removing baby organs and body parts and selling them on the open market.”

That assertion is untrue, as the secretly recorded videos do not show it.


They said that their proposal will defund “any and all Planned Parenthood activities in Maine using any Maine taxpayer money from any source.” They said the same funds should be diverted to other providers of women’s health services and their bill will be written “to make certain that women in Maine continue to receive any needed medical services currently allowed by law.”

Nicole Clegg, a spokeswoman for the Maine chapter of Planned Parenthood, told the Portland Press Herald last week that the organization receives money through the state’s Medicaid program, which funds a variety of health services for low-income women.

Clegg said that there is no fetal tissue donation program in Maine. She said the organization provides services to more than 10,000 Mainers. The organization’s Maine chapter is part of a regional office, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, which is headquartered in Vermont and serves southern Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire at 21 locations.

Financial disclosure reports filed with the IRS show that the nonprofit organization’s regional office had revenue of about $19 million in 2013, including $5 million in contributions or grants and $14 million in payments for services. Planned Parenthood’s services range from cancer screenings, birth control, breast health services and Pap tests to sexual health education, abortion services, information and health counseling.

Other state-led efforts to halt the flow of Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood have been blocked in court. An effort by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was ruled illegal, and a similar initiative by Utah Gov. Gary Hebert was halted by a U.S. District Court judge.

In 2012, lawmakers in Indiana made a similar bid to defund Planned Parenthood, but the effort was ruled illegal by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ruled that an Indiana law violates “patients’ statutory right to obtain medical care from the qualified provider of their choice” because it excluded Planned Parenthood from Medicaid funding for reasons “unrelated to its fitness to provide medical services.”

The Hyde Amendment in federal law already prohibits the use of federal funds for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or when a mother is at risk.

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