Maine Republicans Will Target Fetal Tissue and Planned Parenthood

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Maine Republicans Will Target Fetal Tissue and Planned Parenthood

Teddy Wilson

Republicans, who control the state senate, are poised to push anti-choice legislation. It remains unclear how much success they will have in a divided legislature.

See more of our coverage on the effects of the misleading Center for Medical Progress videos here.

Lawmakers in Maine are preparing a legislative agenda that includes bills intended to restrict reproductive rights and ban Planned Parenthood from receiving state funding.

Nearly 400 bills were pre-filed in Maine last week in preparation for the legislative session, which begins on January 5. While the text of the bills is not yet available, the sponsors of the bills and the bill’s titles shed light on the intent of the proposals. 

Republicans, who control the state senate, are poised to push anti-choice legislation. It remains unclear how much success they will have in a divided legislature, as Democrats hold the state house.

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Republican Gov. Paul LePage is staunchly anti-choice, and his administration recently targeted a family planning organization with allegations that state funds were used for abortion services.

Any anti-choice bills will face an initial legislative hurdle. All bills must first be accepted by the bipartisan legislative council in order to be considered before the full house or senate.

LR 2169, pre-filed by Rep. Eleanor Espling (R-New Gloucester), would regulate the “disposition of fetal tissue from abortions.”

Espling, the assistant Republican leader, co-sponsored a bill during the 2013 legislative session that would have made the sale and purchase of human fetal tissue a Class C crime. The bill defined “human fetal tissue” as any tissue or cells obtained from a human embryo or fetus after an abortion.

The bill appears to be motivated by a series of deceptively edited videos released by an anti-choice front group called the Center for Medical Progress. The videos, released in coordination with GOP lawmakers, feature heavily edited footage of surreptitiously taped conversations with Planned Parenthood officials.

Congressional Republicans used the videos to justify a series of hearings targeting Planned Parenthood and abortion more generally, and have used the videos to justify failed attempts to ban Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funding. Republicans in Maine are now calling for their state to ban the organization from receiving state funding.

Anti-choice lawmakers around the country have introduced legislation that bans the use of fetal tissue for research since the release of CMP’s smear videos.

Three state lawmakers co-authored an op-ed calling for Planned Parenthood to be banned from receiving state or federal funding. Rep. Richard Pickett (R-Dixfield), Rep. Mary Anne Kinney (R-Knox) and Rep. Beth P. Turner (R-Burlington) wrote “we are this day asking the Republican leadership in Maine to assist in defunding any and all Planned Parenthood activities in Maine using any Maine taxpayer money from any source.”

The trio of lawmakers justified their call to action based on CMP’s videos, which they claim “clearly show how Planned Parenthood employees are carefully and deliberately removing baby organs and body parts and selling them on the open market.”

To date, investigations in at least seven states have not uncovered any evidence that Planned Parenthood affiliates have broken fetal tissue laws.

The Maine Republicans claimed in their op-ed that legislation will not be intended to target a “woman’s right to choose or the amount of money spent on women’s health services,” and that any state funds Planned Parenthood would not receive should be “diverted to other community-based programs providing the same services for women.”

Kinney pre-filed LR 2182, which would “prohibit state funding of health care services provided by certain health care providers.” Another lawmaker pre-filed similar legislation. LR 2531, pre-filed by Rep. Stacy Guerin (R-Glenburn), would “prohibit the payment of state funds to entities that perform abortions or operate facilities at which abortions are performed.”

Sen. Dawn Hill (D-York) told Maine Public Radio that the push to ban Planned Parenthood from receiving state funds is overreaction to secretly recorded, highly edited videos. “That does not happen in Maine,” Hill said. “There is no fetal tissue being marketed in Maine, so it’s not even an issue for us.”