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Daniels Faces Defining Decision On Abortion Bill Daniels Faces Defining Decision On Abortion Bill

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Daniels Faces Defining Decision On Abortion Bill

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Gov. Mitch Daniels, R-Ind., didn't pander to the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference.(Office of Gov. Mitch Daniels)

The legislation would introduce some of the nation's strictest anti-abortion laws to the Hoosier State, including a provision that outlaws abortions performed after the fetus reaches 20 weeks -- four weeks earlier than under current state law. Indiana would join Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma as the only states that outlaw abortions after 20 weeks. A potential sticking point for Daniels, however, is the recent inclusion of a provision that cuts off funding for Planned Parenthood, the non-profit agency that provides reproductive health services to millions of women, including many of the state's Medicaid patients. Roughly half of Indiana births are covered by Medicaid, and Planned Parenthood's 28 state offices performed more than 5,500 abortions last year alone. Here's where it gets tricky for Daniels: due to federal statutes that prohibit states from selectively allocating funds to agencies that serve Medicaid recipients, the measure could cost Indiana millions of federal Medicaid dollars if it becomes law. Yet despite internal Republican concerns over the Planned Parenthood provision, which was tacked on by the state Senate and approved by the bill's author, state Rep. Eric Turner (R), the bill passed on Wednesday with only slightly less support than last month, when the original version was approved by a 72-23 vote. The fight is far from over, however, as Planned Parenthood has indicated that it will seek an immediate injunction if and when the bill becomes law. The bill provides a unique opportunity for Daniels, who will announce his presidential decision after the legislative session ends on Friday, to prove his social bona fides in the eyes of conservative voters who have viewed him with suspicion since he famously called for a "truce" on social issues in order to address the country's fiscal crisis. Daniels has remained tight-lipped on the abortion measure, playing his political cards typically close to the vest. Several Indianapolis insiders say no one -- not even the bill's major sponsors -- have any idea which way Daniels is leaning on the legislation, which has been methodically working its way toward his desk. Daniels' office did not respond to a request for comment. Getting a read on Daniels' decision is difficult: Despite his consistently conservative record, Daniels has bluntly rejected the rigid ideology embodied by some members of his party. And after taking a beating for his "truce" proposal, he boldly doubled down on the idea during his speech to CPAC, declaring that "Purity in martyrdom is for suicide bombers." Despite the appeal of signing a bill curtailing abortion allowances, which Daniels surely favors, the prospect of losing millions of federal Medicaid dollars will undoubtedly trouble the fiscally focused governor. On the other hand, Daniels is too politically savvy not to recognize the importance of evangelicals and social conservatives to the campaign of any presidential candidate vying for the GOP nomination. And lost in the furor over his "truce" idea was the fact that Daniels hasn't been shy about touting his pro-life record. During a February appearance on Laura Ingraham's radio show, Daniels said, "You know, ours has been without question the most pro-life administration in our state's history. We haven't just talked about it, we have advanced the right-to-life." Those words, spoken on a program that reaches millions of Republicans, appeared aimed at assuaging the concerns of social conservatives who had grown wary of the governor. But for voters -- especially those invested in hot-button social issues -- actions speak louder than words. Whatever his decision, the next seven days may very well reveal whether Daniels plans on running for president in 2012.

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