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Indiana poised to cut Planned Parenthood funding

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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 movement against Planned Parenthood, which has been targeted for its abortion services. The organization annually conducts more than 5,500 abortions in Indiana and 325,000 nationally.

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 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 political makeup.

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 said.

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.

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  • Mitch's track record
    on women's issues is not impressive. First he declined to appoint a female to the Indiana Supreme Court despite having a choice of 2 eminently qualified women, now this.
  • Good Move
    Concerned, first of all you are not a "registered Republican." In Indiana you don't register by political party. You're just a registered voter.

    No one is against the non-abortion health care services provided by Planned Parenthood. They are against PP and rightfully so since PP is the largest provider of abortion in the country. Why give PP lucarative family planning contracts which frees up cash to use for abortions.

    Let's stop giving PP a monopoloy on family planning services. That's what the opposition is all about, PP wanting to keep its monopoly that shuts other companies out of family planning services.

  • Betterment of Indiana
    This is ludicrous. I, a conservative registered republican who is pro-life, considers the acts of my elected officials extreme and not in the better interests of our State. While I will still fight to save those 5,500 children who are mercilessly killed, I can't believe that my lawmakers are willing to sacrifice the health of the 3 million women in Indiana and at a loss of $4 million dollars of state income. Absurd. I guess we'll see if Mitch is as level-headed as I've always believed.

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