Abortion has been at the forefront of politics in Maine this past year.
From the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade to Gov. Janet Mills (D) signing a new full-term abortion law last month, Planned Parenthood – the country’s leading abortion clinic operator – has wielded tremendous influence in Maine politics and the Maine Democratic Party.
Although the group did not make the list of the ten highest-spending lobbyists this past legislative session, Planned Parenthood’s lobbying expenditures have increased significantly in recent years. According to tax documents, the organization reported $14,361 in lobbying spending in 2019. That number jumped to $161,261 by 2021.
Planned Parenthood’s Organizational Structure – And Why It Matters
Since Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNNE) is a 501(c)3, there are limits to how it can operate when it comes to legislation and campaigns. That said, the group’s sister organization – Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund Inc – is registered as a 501(c)4, which means they are allowed to engage in more explicit political activity.
In 2021, the group transferred $500,000 from its 501(c)3 side to its 501(c)4 side.
The abortion clinic operators also control a Political Action Committee (PAC) that was heavily involved in the 2022 elections, spending almost $1 million statewide. Roughly one-third of that funding came through the 501(c)4.
That Committee funded advertisements opposing pro-life Republicans and supporting pro-abortion Democrats in legislative races throughout the state, and it was similarly involved in the gubernatorial election.
The point person for PPNNE operations in Maine is CEO Nicole Clegg. Records show she received more than $235,000 in compensation from Planned Parenthood’s various organizations, as well as payments from their PAC. She became CEO of PPNNE in March of this year.
According to financial statements available online, PPNNE had more than $23 million in assets in 2022. From July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022, the organization reported receiving more than $32.5 million through its program services and donations.
The organization receives large amounts of funding from taxpayers. Of the $17.3 million of that total came from donations and grants, $5.6 million came from government sources. In 2020, the organization was approved for a COVID-19 PPP loan, receiving $2.75 million in forgiven loans and reporting a total employment of 253 people.
In addition, PPNNE is allowed to bill MaineCare (i.e. Medicaid) for some abortion-related services offered in Maine.
Abortion Legislation in Maine
While there were a slew of bills introduced this past legislative session related to abortion, LD 1619 was the focal point.
In short, LD 1619 dramatically expanded access to late-term abortion in Maine by striking from law the provision stating that abortions after an unborn child becomes viable are only permissible “to preserve the life or health of the mother.”
Since the early 1990s, Maine law had limited abortions past 24-weeks of pregnancy to cases where an abortion is necessary to save the mother’s life.
Thanks to LD 1619, Maine law now allows for abortions to be performed after viability “when it is necessary in the professional judgment of a physician.”
Currently, only six other states – including Alaska, Colorado, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Vermont – and Washington, D.C. have similar laws on the books allowing doctors, without restriction, to authorize abortions at any point during a pregnancy.
Gov. Mills went on to sign the bill into law in late July.
This past legislative session, Planned Parenthood worked with four lobbyists to further their agenda with lawmakers in Augusta.
According to records filed with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, three of the four lobbyists – Alysia Melnick, Andrea Nadeau, and Katherine Knox – reported lobbying activity only during the month of June. The fourth lobbyist, Clegg, reported lobbying activity during April, May, and June.
Filings for Alysia Melnick’s lobbying activities during the month of June show that she was paid $9,400 for lobbying legislative branch officials during this period. Melnick is a legislative attorney with Bernstein Shur who previously served as a senior adviser to the Maine Speaker of the House.
Andrea Nadeau and Katherine Knox were also paid $9,400 for the same work during this same time frame. Nadeau is a project manager for Bernstein Shur, while Knox is a Bernstein Shur attorney who has served as General Counsel to the Maine Democratic Party for ten years.
The reports filed with the Ethics Commission show that lobbying efforts for these three individuals were confined just to LD 1619.
Nicole Clegg, current CEO of PPNNE and primary lobbyist this past legislative session for the organization, reported $1,800 spent lobbying the legislative branch in April, as well as $415 for lobbying the executive branch.
Clegg reported lobbying efforts related to a number of abortion-related bills that were under consideration in the legislature this session, including LD 1619.
In May, Clegg reported $2,070 for lobbying legislative officials and $415 for lobbying executive branch officials. Expenditures for lobbying activities in the legislative and executive branches were $2,270 and $415 respectively.
Clegg’s June report totaled $1,110 for lobbying in the legislative branch and $555 for lobbying in the executive branch. The same amounts were reported as lobbying activity expenditures.
Planned Parenthood reported spending a total of $33,180 on lobbying Maine officials over the course of three months.
During that time, numerous lawmakers commented publicly about the influence campaign pro-abortion lobbyists were operating in the hallways of the State House.
2022 Gubernatorial Campaign
During the 2022 gubernatorial race between current Gov. Janet Mills (D) and former Gov. Paul LePage (R), Planned Parenthood was highly active.
PPNNE’s Maine PAC spent a total of $836,059 on “independent expenditures,” a category of campaign spending used to demonstrate support for or opposition to particular candidates.
This total far outstripped the group’s previous spending record of $562,233 in 2014.
While the majority of these funds were put toward the gubernatorial race, Planned Parenthood also weighed in on several key legislative races in the state.
Planned Parenthood’s sizable investment into Maine’s gubernatorial race came despite Gov. Mills’ public, emphatic assertion that she had no intention of approving any changes to Maine’s existing abortion laws.
It is also important to note that former Gov. LePage had also publicly adopted the same stance on abortion.
Planned Parenthood – an organization favoring lax rules around abortion and other “reproductive health” related causes – nonetheless spent record amounts of money in Maine during this past election season.
Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund
Another avenue through which Planned Parenthood continually influences the political landscape in Maine when it comes to these issues is the Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund (PPMEAF).
PPMEAF encourages Mainers to volunteer their time to aid in Planned Parenthood’s advocacy efforts.
Although the PPMEAF website lists a number of ways that volunteers can contribute to Planned Parenthood’s mission, some of those highlighted include phone banking, participating in letter writing campaigns, and sharing personal stories to show legislators why they ought to oppose “unprecedented” anti-abortion bills.
Government documents obtained recently by the Maine Wire revealed that a Planned Parenthood official was consulted by the Maine Attorney General’s Office (AGO) regarding the development of an “abortion rights” fact sheet.
Emails sent during the initial development period referenced close collaboration between Clegg and Dana Hayes, the AGO’s Special Assistant for Public Affairs.
For a more in-depth look at this and other controversies surrounding the publication and eventual retraction of this flyer, see: Emails Show Maine Attorney General’s Office Deleted Public Abortion Guidance After Pressure from Republicans and Media
Planned Parenthood’s Expanding Area of Advocacy
Recently, Planned Parenthood has begun to expand the reach of their advocacy, involving themselves in conversations surrounding transgenderism and “gender identity.”
Their website now includes an entire section dedicated to “Transgender and Non-Binary Identities” with information about medical transitioning and “gender-affirming medical care.”
The page on transitioning goes into detail about a range of “social” and “legal” means of transitioning, as well as medical interventions such as “gender-affirming hormone therapy,” as well as surgical procedures used to change an individual’s voice and physical appearance.
While Planned Parenthood has not yet become publicly involved with such issues in Maine, the expansion of the national organization’s mission to encompass such topics is suggestive that PPNNE or PPMEAF may begin to engage in such state-level advocacy in the future.
Nationally, Planned Parenthood has already begun providing transgender-related services at some clinics, services which are covered in Maine under MaineCare.
Although Planned Parenthood may not have made the top of the list in terms of lobbying dollars spent this past legislative session, their impact on Maine’s politics and public policy should not be underestimated.
Between their $33,180 lobbying effort in 2023, an ongoing active volunteer campaign, their $836,059 political campaign in 2022, the development of close relationship with state government officials, and the employ of lobbyists with ties to the Maine Democrat Party, Planned Parenthood undoubtedly has had, and continues to have, a massive influence on Maine’s public policy as it relates to abortion and other “reproductive health” issues.