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Thursday September 21, 2017
Posted: Aug 19, 2015

Poliquin presses Planned Parenthood, but stops short of supporting full defunding

Up Country

Earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services secretary asking for a report on how Planned Parenthood uses federal funds on the heels of a national debate over the use of fetal tissue from abortions for research.

The uproar came after an anti-abortion group started distributing hidden-camera videos that show officials at Planned Parenthood, which provides a range of medical services including abortion, discussing prices for fetal tissue. Activists have said the videos show that the group could profit from it, which would violate federal law, but Planned Parenthood has said it only covers its costs and experts have said it’s unlikely.

Poliquin, a Republican from Maine’s 2nd District, is anti-abortion and has cast votes to ban it in most cases after 20 weeks of pregnancy and to further restrict federal taxpayer-funded abortions — which the Hyde amendment bans already in most cases. But unlike many in his party, Poliquin isn’t calling for pulling all federal funding from Planned Parenthood.

Poliquin has been difficult to pin down on the issue in the past. In 2012, he seemed to say that he would vote to cut off all funding. That would include money for cancer and HIV screenings and contraception.

But when Poliquin was hit on that in the 2014 2nd District campaign by Democrats and their candidate, Emily Cain, who’s running again in 2016, he said they were wrong. His campaign manager told the Kennebec Journal that while Poliquin thinks taxpayers “should not have to fund abortion service providers,” that didn’t mean “he is opposed to the other services offered such as cancer screenings.”

However, most congressional Republicans want to strip Planned Parenthood of all funding. An effort to do that fell short in the Senate earlier this month and the House could vote on a similar measure after it returns from a recess in September. That’s the stance of the anti-abortion Christian Civic League, which supported Poliquin in 2014.

Poliquin isn’t calling for that: In his letter, he called the videos “chilling” and raised a number of legal questions about its contents, but he also said Planned Parenthood provides “important health care services to women in Maine.”

When asked directly how he’d vote on a full defunding bill after a business tour in North Anson last week, he demurred, saying, “Let’s see what the bills are.” But he stopped short of calling for it.

“We want to keep those services there,” he said, speaking of Planned Parenthood’s health services aside from abortion, “but we’re looking at parts of Planned Parenthood or any other organization that may be breaking the law.”

Carroll Conley, the Christian Civic League’s executive director, said his group isn’t upset by that stance, but it’s encouraged by it. He said the league is “thankful for any light that is being shed on this.”

That may be so, but watch closely where Poliquin lands on any eventual vote. If he votes no on defunding, he could alienate anti-abortion supporters. If he’s a yes, it could be a 2016 line of attack for Democrats.

 

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