I’m proud to stand with Planned Parenthood.

I say this as a husband and father of two young children, as a policymaker who sees the value of health care access, and as a man committed to women’s health.

These rights regularly come under attack in the Maine Legislature, where I serve as the House majority leader. And now an offshoot of the extremist effort to defund Planned Parenthood that we’ve watched in Washington, D.C., has cropped up in Maine with bills for the upcoming legislative session.

These bills need approval from the Legislative Council in order to move forward and be considered in the session that begins in January. I, along with the other Democrats on the council, am committed to standing up to these threats to health care.

The fight in Washington brought out fringe elements in Congress that were willing to send our country hurtling toward government shutdown. Smear campaigns and discredited video footage masqueraded as policy debate. It was all about advancing an agenda to limit women’s access to safe, legal abortion.

Why would we want to bring this political circus to our state?

The answer is that we don’t.

Maine people understand the value of Planned Parenthood. They know Planned Parenthood is a vital health care provider — one that provides birth control, life-saving cancer screenings, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, well-woman exams and safe abortion. They know that Planned Parenthood’s work has helped to significantly reduce rates of both unintended pregnancy and abortion in Maine. They know that without Planned Parenthood, many Mainers would have nowhere else to turn.

Last year, Planned Parenthood served more than 10,000 women, men and young people in Maine. It is an important part of our safety net, providing free or discounted care worth $3.5 million and serving many Mainers — 66 percent of its patients, in fact — who earn less than $17,505 annually.

When it comes to Mainers’ support for Planned Parenthood, you don’t have to rely solely on my word.

Support for Planned Parenthood is broad and deep with Mainers all over the state, according to recent poll of 501 voters conducted by Hart Research Associates. Mainers know about the false accusations against Planned Parenthood and aren’t fooled by them. They are overwhelmingly opposed to defunding Planned Parenthood.

The polling reveals how out of touch the agenda against Planned Parenthood is. Seventy percent of Maine voters oppose congressional Republicans’ attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, with 55 percent strongly opposed.

These are the facts that the enemies of Planned Parenthood should consider carefully. So far they’ve proved themselves out of touch with the mainstream. We’ve already seen them parrot the misinformation spread by extremists in Congress and embrace the fraudulent “undercover” videos made by a group linked to extremists connected to the firebombing of clinics and threats against doctors who provide abortion services. They also are making cynical false arguments that women’s health services would not be diminished.

The sponsors of the Maine bill have tried to argue that other health care providers could simply step in. If they don’t already know this, they ought to know that federally qualified health centers cannot possibly fill the void that would be created by the defunding of Planned Parenthood.

There is no way that community health centers could simply absorb the loss of services provided by Planned Parenthood services. An analysis by the Congressional Budget Office — the independent nonpartisan agency that provides Congress with budget and economic information — estimates that as many as 630,000 Planned Parenthood patients would lose access to care. We are talking about preventative services, treatment for chronic diseases, contraception, cancer screenings and tests and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.

We cannot allow this to happen. We must safeguard women’s health care and access to safe, legal abortion. We must protect an important part of our safety net that thousands of women and men rely on.

On Thursday, when the Legislative Council considers the Maine bill, I will proudly declare my support for Planned Parenthood and vote “nay.” I hope Mainers join us in making this message heard loudly and clearly all across our state.

Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, is the House majority leader. He represents Skowhegan and part of Madison.


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