Mitch Daniels Put to the Abortion Test

Since Republicans failed to ban federal funding for Planned Parenthood, a few states have decided to do it themselves. First up, Indiana, where the Senate passed a funding ban last week. But, as the Indianapolis Star reports, it’s not that simple: Under federal law, states cannot choose which organizations are allowed to provide family planning to Medicaid patients. The Planned Parenthood ban could now cost the state all $4 billion of its federal funds for family-planning services.

For right-wingers who want to defund Planned Parenthood, this is great news. Since the vast majority of what Planned Parenthood does is provide contraception, testing, and screening, defunding the organization is a direct attempt to make family planning, and other medical services, unavailable to low-income women. While Republican lawmakers constantly claim that their preoccupation with Planned Parenthood is because it provides abortion, it's pretty obvious it's about contraception too. So the fact that their bill could trigger a larger move to defund contraceptive services shouldn't make them flinch.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who is considering a run for the GOP presidential nomination, is in a tougher spot. Nationally, ending both Planned Parenthood funding and all federal family planning funding for his state won't play out well when, as a candidate, he needs to court independent and female voters. Conversely, vetoing a bill that defunds Planned Parenthood will be toxic if he enters the hyper-conservative field of GOP primary candidates. So far, the government hasn't commented on whether it would use its authority to cut off all family-planning funding, but the situation is potentially revealing for Daniels; will the governor who called for a "truce on the so-called social issues" seize the moment to assert his social-conservative credentials or remain a social moderate focused on the economy?

That the funding ban is tied to a bill that would prohibit abortion at 20 weeks doesn't make it any easier. Of course, Daniels's political future is only a tiny piece of what's really at stake. 

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