WASHINGTON — On a nearly party line vote, the U.S. House has approved legislation that would block Planned Parenthood's federal funding for one year, which Republicans say will give time for Congress to fully investigate claims of wrongdoing by the organization.
Maine's two members split on what is largely a symbolic vote.
The vote freezes all federal funding for Planned Parenthood after weeks of escalating rhetoric surrounding allegations that the organization sold fetal tissue for profit.
Maine 1st District U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, voted against the legislation and accused supporters of distorting the issue.
"Let's be clear who is really behind the attempts to defund Planned Parenthood," she says. "Radical anti-abortion groups who want to shutdown Planned Parenthood and deny women access to safe and legal abortions."
Pingree says the misuse of fetal tissue that's being alleged is illegal, and that Planned Parenthood will face serious legal problems if it is proven they did violate the law. She says it makes no sense to stop the funding for important health programs while a probe of Planned Parenthood is underway.
"Planned Parenthood provides basic health care like cancer screenings, vaccinations, wellness exams and STD testing, basic care that will mean the difference between health and sickness, prosperity and poverty or even life or death for women in my state," she says.
In an interview with MPBN News earlier this month, 2nd District U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin said he would oppose the defunding of Planned Parenthood because of the important health services they provide.
"Elective partial birth abortions to harvest body parts for sale, for profit, that is against the law, we should stop that," he said. "And we should fund the other parts of Planned Parenthood that allows other services for women to go on."
Poliquin says he really didn't change his position. He says he supports funding for needed women's health services and the legislation he voted for redirects the money from Planned Parenthood to federal qualified health centers that serve the entire state. He says Planned Parenthood has no facilities in the Second District but there are qualified health centers.
"This legislation will redirect millions of dollars to federally qualified health centers, which offers similar, and some locations offer even more, women's health care services than Planned Parenthood," Poliquin said in a statement.
Nicole Clegg of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England says she is surprised and disappointed BY Poliquin's vote, AND SAYS his rationale is Misguided.
"Because of Planned Parenthood's large role in delivering family planning care across the country, public health experts have been very clear that the notion that other providers, including federally qualified health centers, could serve Planned Parenthood's patients is just not realistic," she says.
It's uncertain whether the Senate will even take up the House-passed measure, and if it does, Democrats have vowed to block consideration on final passage.
For his part, President Barack Obama has promised a veto should the bill somehow reach his desk.