INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana is poised to become the first state to cut off
all government funding for the Planned Parenthood organization, providing a
significant victory for the anti-abortion movement but presenting a
political predicament for the state’s governor, Mitch Daniels, as he
considers running for president.
The Indiana House voted 66-32 Wednesday to approve a bill cutting the $3
million in federal money the state distributes to the organization for
family planning and health programs.
The measure also ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy unless there
is a substantial threat to the woman’s life or health and requires women
seeking an abortion be told that life begins at conception and that doctors
performing abortions have admitting privileges in a nearby hospital. The
Senate approved the measure earlier this month.
The action opens a new legislative front in the conservative assault on
Planned Parenthood, which has been targeted for its abortion services.
Efforts to cut off federal funds in Congress failed this month, but bills
are moving in a number of statehouses.
Indiana’s measure is now in Daniels hands, which could force him to make a
decision between the state’s fiscal interests and a prime goal of his
party’s social conservatives.
If he signs the measure, Indiana risks losing $4 million in federal grants
for family planning services. If he vetoes it, Daniels could antagonize
ardent social conservatives already wary of his public statements about the
importance of focusing on economic issues this year. (Daniels made the truce
comment last June)
But signing it also could provide Daniels with the political cover he needs
from those who question his commitment to social conservative causes. He
could point to it throughout the presidential campaign as evidence that
opposition to abortion rights and other social causes are part of his
A Daniels spokeswoman said the governor would not comment until the bill
arrives on his desk for action. He’ll have seven calendar days once he
receives the bill to take action. He also could allow it to become law
without his signature once those seven days pass.
Daniels has said he will decide on a run for president after the Legislature
adjourns, which is expected Friday.
Planned Parenthood says abortions account for just 3 percent of the services
it provides. Planned Parenthood clinics across the country perform 1 million
screenings for cervical cancer, 830,000 breast exams and some 4 million
tests and treatments for sexually transmitted diseases. Abortion-rights
supporters say cutting funding for Planned Parenthood would primarily hurt
poor women who often have few choices for health care.
Conservative lawmakers say, however, that any money the organization
receives at least indirectly supports abortions.
“If we’re buying the roof over their head or their paper clips, we’re still
subsidizing abortion,” said Republican Rep. Matt Ubelhor, who sponsored a
bill to ban state grants or contracts to Planned Parenthood of Indiana.
Planned Parenthood officials urged Daniels to veto the bill and said they
would go to court to challenge the funding cut-off.
Indiana social agencies say federal law doesn’t allow states to choose which
medical providers receive payments from Medicaid, which pays Planned
Parenthood of Indiana about $1.3 million a year.
Republicans in Congress and in state legislatures see state action as an
effective new tactic against Planned Parenthood and other abortion
providers. The push has been intensified since last fall’s midterm ballot
elected more Republican governors and larger Republican majorities in many
statehouses. Other tough restrictions on abortions have already been
approved in many conservative states.
Abortion-rights supporters expect they’ll be fighting the de-funding issue
in other state legislatures.
“These battles have been going on for decades,” said Elizabeth Nash, who
tracks state legislation for the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-health
research organization that supports abortion rights. “They rise and they
fall, but right now they seem to be the worst that we’ve seen.”
In North Carolina, the proposed state budget includes a ban on state
contracts with Planned Parenthood for teen pregnancy prevention and family
planning. In Texas, the Republican-controlled House stripped more than $60
million from the state budget for family planning services, shifting some of
the money to anti-abortion programs and crisis pregnancy centers. Last year,
New Jersey’s Republican governor, Chris Christie, cut $7.5 million from the
state budget for 58 clinics specializing in women’s reproductive health.
Indiana’s Ubelhor said he campaigned on de-funding Planned Parenthood last
year, when he defeated an incumbent Democrat and helped Republicans gain
control of the Indiana House. He said state legislatures shouldn’t wait on
Congress to act. “I think as a state we should do as much as we possibly
can,” he said.
Sue Swayze, a legislative lobbyist for Indiana Right to Life, said she
expects more state action.
“I think it will give folks who might otherwise have been reluctant to
either face the controversy, period, or to put their state on the line,
motivation to know that there is some support in Congress for it,” Swayze
Nash said abortion rights supporters will argue that the measures hurt state
budgets as well as women’s health.
“Those efforts are not in the interest of public health, they are
ideological,” she said.
Although the issue could be politically awkward for Daniels, whose term ends
next year, it should be welcome for Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, who is
considering a run for governor. Pence, a Republican, led the drive in
Congress to block Planned Parenthood funding.