Rep. Poliquin flips on Planned Parenthood, votes against women’s health

BDN file photo by Troy R. Bennett.

BDN file photo by Troy R. Bennett.

I was surprised and pleased to hear Second-District Representative Bruce Poliquin’s statement to Maine Public Radio last week on Planned Parenthood. Sure, he used the opportunity to repeat some of the worst lies about the organization promoted by anti-abortion rights activists, but at least he said he would vote against the attempt to strip away federal funding for the clinics.

“We should fund the other parts of Planned Parenthood that allows other services for women to go on,” he told MPBN.

All federal funding to Planned Parenthood goes for services other than abortion, including cancer screenings and birth control.

Just four days later, however, Poliquin had changed his mind. He voted in favor of a measure to halt funding for Planned Parenthood across the country. To justify his quick flip-flop, he claimed that he’s still in favor of funding for women’s health care and that he simply voted that way because there are no Planned Parenthood clinics in the Second District.

That is one of the lamest excuses I’ve ever heard. It would be like voting against FEMA funds for hurricane relief because Bangor is less vulnerable than New Orleans.

Plus, he had specifically said he was in favor of funding those services through Planned Parenthood. There’s no wiggle room in that quote.

Providers of health care to women in the Second District were quick to call out Poliquin’s dissembling.

“Congressman Poliquin’s vote against women’s health is a vote against women’s economic security.” said Andrea Irwin, Executive Director of the Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center in Bangor. “The vote jeopardizes the health of the women who rely on Planned Parenthood for their health care, especially the 66 percent of Planned Parenthood’s patients who earn incomes below $17,505. For many women, Planned Parenthood is the only source of affordable care and serves as a vital safety net.”

“This vote is particularly harmful coming just two days after new census data showing that Maine is the only state whose uninsured rate has moved in the wrong direction; dropping from 10th to 24th nationwide since 2010 when the Affordable Care Act was enacted, another measure Congressman Poliquin has opposed. 1 in 5 American women has counted on Planned Parenthood for care at some point in her lifetime. Thanks to Representative Pingree who voted to support women’s health in today’s vote, many will continue to have that lifeline available to them,” said Irwin.

This is not the first time that Poliquin has flipped on this issue. In 2010, when he was running for governor, his stated position was that “government and politics has no place in social issues like abortion and gay marriage.”

After losing to tea-party rival Paul LePage in that election, Poliquin tacked rightward. By his next race, for U.S. Senate in 2012, he had declared his opposition to legal abortion except in cases where a pregnancy threatened the life of the mother.

He also promised to vote to cut Planned Parenthood’s federally-funded programs, including birth control.

“There are those taxpayers who believe in life, like I do, and so I think it is completely inappropriate for the federal government to mandate taxpayers to fund this kind of practice against their belief,” he told the audience at a Christian Civic League forum.

So much for his current opposition to Planned Parenthood having anything to do with clinic geography or even the new, doctored videos.

By 2014, when he found himself running against pro-choice former Maine Senate President Kevin Raye in the Second District Republican Primary, Poliquin seized on abortion as a wedge issue. The support of conservative religious groups and their get-out-the-vote efforts helped propel him to victory.

“There have been few times … in which we’ve been so enthusiastic about endorsing a candidate as Bruce,” Carroll Conley, executive director of the Christian Civic League, told the Bangor Daily News. “In an unprecedented and unapologetic way, Bruce reached out to the evangelical leadership.”

“I think the life issue was the deciding factor,” said Conley.

In the General Election, however, Poliquin once again began to equivocate. He added rape and incest to the circumstances under which he would support abortion rights and refused to answer if he would still vote to defund Planned Parenthood.

Poliquin is “not looking backward, he is looking forward,” his campaign manager said, blowing off the question.

In Congress, Poliquin seems to be attempting to continue being a political chameleon. Unlike in a campaign, however, now there’s a point where the rubber finally meets the road and he has to cast a vote. Last week, he voted against Planned Parenthood and against access to birth control, cancer screenings and other health care services for women across the country. Now we finally know where he really stands.

Mike Tipping

About Mike Tipping

Mike is Maine's longest-writing political blogger and explores state politics and policy with a focus on analysis and explanation. He works at the Maine People's Alliance and Maine People's Resource Center.