Mitch Daniels, Culture Warrior?

It is perhaps ironic that Mitch Daniels has been swept up in a political controversy involving abortion. The Indiana governor has spent the last two years calling for a “truce” between liberals and conservatives on social issues.

Daniels now finds himself assuming an unlikely role: as one of the principal combatants in the newest front of the abortion battle. 

Last month, Gov. Daniels signed legislation that made Indiana the first state to prohibit its agencies from entering contracts or making grants with entities (besides hospitals) that perform abortions. The law denies $2 to $3 million a year to Planned Parenthood’s Indiana affiliate, which receives federal funds via the Indiana state government through Medicaid.

That decision is widely popular throughout Indiana. But it has invited the wrath of the abortion lobby and, hence, the Obama administration.

Last week, the Obama administration denied Indiana’s request to prohibit the funds to Planned Parenthood, arguing that federal Medicaid law says that states cannot exclude providers based on the services they provide.

But the state of Indiana argues that health care providers may not receive Medicaid reimbursements directly related to abortions and that there is no record that Planned Parenthood of Indiana segregates Medicaid reimbursements from other revenue sources, including the 5,000 abortions it performs every year in the state.

There’s no better way to mobilize the left than to threaten to take away taxpayer funding of the abortion industry. After Daniels signed the new law, abortion advocates in the U.S. Senate signed a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius demanding that she inform state Medicaid administrators that there are penalties for withholding funds from Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood also challenged the law, filing a motion for an injunction. It argues that the law is unconstitutional because it violates contracts already in place between the abortion enterprise and the state.  It also objected to other pro-life provisions in the law, including a ban on abortions after 20 weeks and requirement that women considering abortion be given factual information about the procedure. 

A federal judge in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis declined to issue an injunction against the new law. But today it is hearing arguments on Planned Parenthood’s motion for an injunction.

A source at the Obama administration’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told Politico that Indiana’s decision to defy the Obama administration may cost it as much as $4 billion in Medicaid funds from the federal government. These funds account for about two-thirds of the state’s total Medicaid budget.

Planned Parenthood has labeled the new law “an assault on all women.” But it does not target any particular organization for exclusion from Medicaid. The bill passed by two-to-one majorities in both houses of the Indiana state legislature. And it doesn’t prevent women on Medicaid from receiving the health care they need.

As Gov. Daniels stated when he signed the law, “I commissioned a careful review of access to services across the state and can confirm that all non-abortion services, whether family planning or basic women’s health, will remain readily available in every one of our 92 counties.”

Daniels promised that everything would be done to ensure that “medical care is, if anything, more widely available than before.”

Plus, as Daniels has made clear, “any organization affected by this provision can resume receiving taxpayer dollars immediately by ceasing or separating its operations that perform abortions.”

The Indiana abortion battle is a state-level version of the ongoing national fight over whether taxpayer funds should be given to America’s largest abortion business.

The abortion industry correctly worries that if the Indiana law is upheld, other states may follow suit in trying to defund Planned Parenthood. Pro-life groups across the country talk about the Indiana law as a possible model for other states. 

In challenging the Indiana law, the Obama administration has placed Planned Parenthood’s bottom line ahead of the interests of Indiana’s thousands of Medicaid recipients and millions of taxpayers. This should surprise no one.

In April, the Obama administration seemed willing to delay payment to American soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan as it threatened to shut down the federal government over federal funding of Planned Parenthood.

While running for president in 2007, Barack Obama told a room full of Planned Parenthood donors how important abortion advocacy is for him. “On this fundamental issue [promoting abortion “rights”],” he told the crowd, “I will not yield and Planned Parenthood will not yield.”

Governor Daniels says he remains committed to a truce over issues like abortion.  But I hope he realizes that the left has no interest in an abortion truce. Indeed, for many liberals, including President Obama, the unyielding promotion of abortion will always be a fundamental issue.