WASHINGTON — A group of Republican lawmakers is threatening to block the federal budget over funding for Planned Parenthood, saying the organization is using taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions to harvest fetal tissue.
But members of Maine's congressional delegation, Democrats and Republicans alike, say they support continued funding for Planned Parenthood.
Earlier this year an anti-abortion group released videos that apparently showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing how to profit from the sale of fetal tissue harvested from abortions done at some Planned Parenthood clinics in other states.
U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine's 1st District says the videos were used to generate opposition in Congress to Planned Parenthood, an organization that she says provides many needed health services for women.
"You know, the videos were obviously highly edited and kind of a gotcha device to one more time put the focus on Planned Parenthood and women's health services," she says, "which just doesn't make any sense to most American families, and I just think they just shake their heads and look at Congress and say, 'You are fighting about what, now?'"
Pingree, a Democrat, is upset that some members of Congress would jeopardize the scores of federal programs that will run out of money on Oct. 1. She says what is alleged in the videos is illegal and if it happened, she says violators should face prosecution.
Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins says she has proposed a full Justice Department investigation of the videos. But, she says, that does not mean that Planned Parenthood should lose federal funding.
"In Maine about 8,800 women, primarily in southern Maine, receive their well care, their cancer screening and their family planning through the four clinics that we have in the state of Maine," Collins says.
Sen. Angus King, an independent, also opposes the idea of holding up the federal budget over Planned Parenthood funding, and he told the Senate last month that the whole argument makes little sense to him.
"I have never understood why people who are opposed to abortion seem to be opposed to provisions of family planning and contraceptive information, which can prevent unwanted pregnancies and indeed, prevent abortions," he says.
U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from Maine's 2nd District, says that as a devout Franco-American Catholic, he is offended by what he saw in the videos. But he says the law is already clear and that the actions portrayed in the video are illegal.
"Elective partial birth abortions to harvest body parts for sale, for profit, that is against the law," he says. "We should stop that. And we should fund the other parts of Planned Parenthood that allows other services for women to go on."
Poliquin says Congress must avoid another shutdown of federal government services and pass a budget for the next year by the end of the month, but acknowledges that that's unlikely.
All four members of the state's delegation expect Congress will continue spending at current levels for at least a month to avoid a shutdown and to give itself time to reach agreement on an overall budget.