Indiana legislature vote to defund Planned Parenthood puts Gov. Mitch Daniels on the spot

Gov Mitch Daniels, R-Ind.
AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana
Mitch Daniels
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels' decision whether or not to sign the recently-passed abortion bill in his state could signal if he's interested in running for president.
AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

Republicans in Congress this year failed to strip federal funding for Planned Parenthood, but Indiana is on the verge of becoming the first state to strip Medicaid funding for the network of reproductive health clinics.

Indiana's GOP-led legislature this week passed a bill to make Indiana's abortion restrictions among the strictest in the nation while also eliminating most government funding for Planned Parenthood. Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, a potential 2012 contender, said this morning that he hasn't decided yet whether or not to sign it into law, the Indianapolis Star reports.

Daniels, who has positioned himself as a fiscal conservative focused on the deficit, created some controversy in 2010 when he called for a "truce" within the Republican party over social issues such as abortion. Whether the governor decides to embrace this conservative bill could signal if he's attempting to get back in the good graces of social conservatives and make a serious bid for the White House.

Daniels has said he would announce whether he was running for president after the Indiana legislative session. The session ends tomorrow, but the governor told the Star he has yet to make up his mind, so he "absolutely" won't be making any announcement this weekend.

The bill that's now heading to Daniels' desk would eliminate $2 million in federal funding that Planned Parenthood receives, funneled through the state (the legislature has no control over an additional $1 million Planned Parenthood in Indiana receives from the federal government). About $1.3 million of that money comes from Medicaid funds allocated for family planning.

No other state bans the use of Medicaid at Planned Parenthood clinics -- in fact, federal law say states cannot pick and choose which health providers receive those Medicaid funds. The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration has expressed concern that if the bill passes, it could lose all of its $4 million in Medicaid family-planning funds, the Indianapolis Star reports, since the bill violates that rule.

In addition to revoking that funding, the Indiana bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks. This legislative tactic is common among states trying to test the limits of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that protects a woman's right to an abortion.

Reproductive rights groups are urging Daniels to veto the bill and are slamming him for considering the measure, given his call for a "truce" on social issues.

"It's time for Governor Daniels, who called for a truce on social issues, to stay true to his word," Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. "As he promised, Governor Daniels should fix the economy and veto this bill that is driven by a clear social agenda and will cost the taxpayers of Indiana money."

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, added that Daniels "will now be forced to decide whether to put his presidential ambitions above thousands of Hoosier women who would lose access to birth control, cancer screenings, and other basic health care."

Daniels' political action committee spent more than $1 million in the 2010 elections to ensure that Republicans won control of the state legislature.

This abortion bill, however, isn't the first time the new GOP-led Indiana House has put Daniels on the spot when it comes to hot-button ideological issues. Earlier this year, Daniels caught flack from conservatives for urging the state legislature to drop an anti-union bill.