INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s Gov. Mitch Daniels is reportedly about to a sign a bill providing restrictions on abortion and denying public funds to Planned Parenthood or any other organization doing abortions.
“The principle involved commands the support of an overwhelming majority of Hoosiers,” said Daniels as he announced his intention to sign H.B. 1210 April 29.
A reported $3 million is at stake for Planned Parenthood Indiana (PPIN) in both state money and federal funds administered by the state.
PPIN’s president, Betty Cockrum, followed Daniels’ announcement with an immediate promise to seek an injunction against the law as soon as it is signed.
Cockrum, who declined to speak to the Register, issued a statement saying the defunding would mean that “as many as 22,000 low-income Hoosiers will lose their medical home. Countless patients will find themselves without access to lifesaving tests to avoid the tragic outcomes of cervical and breast cancer and epidemic sexually transmitted disease here in Indiana.” She added, “The decision to sign H.B. 1210 into law is unconscionable and unspeakable.”
H.B. 1210’s story really began last fall, according to Mike Fichter, president of Indiana Right to Life, when Indianans sent 22 freshman legislators to the state Capitol.
“There was a real groundswell,” Fichter said. “For the first time we had legislators knocking at our door for help drafting bills.”
One catalyst came from Dr. Leroy Carhart, the late-term abortionist from Nebraska who announced he was opening a business in Indiana after his home state passed a law outlawing abortions after 20 weeks.
Predictably, Indiana’s H.B. 1210’s drafters incorporated Nebraska’s 20-week fetal-pain prohibition. Fichter says a compelling moment in the committee hearings came when a woman told of her 19-week-old fetus, dying shortly after being delivered by miscarriage. “She said the baby responded to touch and clearly could feel pain,” Fichter said.
The bill also excludes abortion coverage from any state health-insurance exchange set up by the new federal health-care plan; it requires abortionists or a designee to register with a local hospital (to expedite any emergency admissions caused by botched abortions), and requires abortionists to provide all women seeking abortion with written information packages on the development of the unborn child.
Another bill, devoted solely to cutting off all state funds or federal funds under state control from abortion practitioners, died in the state House of Representatives because of a walkout of Democrats. So when H.B. 1210 easily passed in the House, Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, amended it in the Senate by adding the defunding measure. Again, the measure passed easily with the support of most Republicans and even some Democrats.
It is the defunding that Planned Parenthood has focused on, claiming it will prevent Indiana’s low-income women from receiving Medicaid services. PPIN also insists that the state is violating a federal provision that “prohibits states from picking and choosing which providers may offer family-planning services” and that more unplanned pregnancies will be caused by women losing access to birth-control information and contraceptives.
“More unintended pregnancy means increased Medicaid spending,” Cockrum’s statement continues. “Indiana already has one of the highest rates of Medicaid-covered births. The cost is already $450 million.”
Schneider, however, said, “That’s a false alarm. We’ve identified 800 health centers through the state that can provide Medicaid services. If their abortion operation is as small a part of their business as they say, they should make the appropriate business decision and just drop that part of the business.”
Right to Life Indiana’s Fichter adds that the law does not violate any federal ban on “picking and choosing” between service providers because “it cuts off funds to any and all agencies that provide abortions.”
The pro-life Alliance Defense Fund provided Indiana with a legal opinion that the law would withstand any challenge, based on the success of similar measures in other states such as Texas and Missouri against Planned Parenthood appeals.
Both Daniels, who has been mentioned as a possible presidential contender in 2012, and Planned Parenthood claimed to have the support of Indianans, while professor Thomas Steiger of Indiana State University says American public opinion on abortion has consistently supported a woman’s right to abortion and restrictions since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.
“I’m struck by how little change there is across the years,” Steiger wrote in a 2009 paper. He also observes that politicians have responded to the public’s support of restrictions, reporting that as of 2009, “24 states have a mandatory waiting or counseling period,” while 35 have parental-notification requirements.
Steiger contrasted public opinion on abortion restrictions and gun restrictions. While public support for gun control has waned as actual restrictions have increased, public support for restrictions on abortion has proved “unwavering” over the past 30 years, while the restrictions themselves have grown.
Register correspondent Steve Weatherbe writes from Victoria, British Columbia.