Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) announced on Friday that he will sign into law a controversial measure that both tightens the state's abortion laws and bans federal Medicaid money from funding Planned Parenthood, bringing to an end 48 hours of rampant speculation over the bill's fate and, as a corollary, Daniels' political future.
"I supported this bill from the outset, and the recent addition of language guarding against the spending of tax dollars to support abortions creates no reason to alter my position," Daniels said in a statement. "The principle involved commands the support of an overwhelming majority of Hoosiers, as reflected in greater than 2:1 bipartisan votes in both legislative chambers."
Planned Parenthood has indicated that it will seek an immediate injunction if and when the bill becomes law.
Daniels, who is expected to announce as soon as next week whether or not he'll run for president in 2012, has been eyed with suspicion by many social conservatives since his proposal last summer that Americans call a temporary "truce" over social issues to focus on fixing the nation's fiscal problems. His decision to sign the bill, which could assuage the concerns of many social conservative voters, could be the clearest indication yet that Daniels has his eye on the White House.
Some Indianapolis Republicans feared that Daniels, who is known to prioritize his state's fiscal health above partisan and ideological quarreling, would be reluctant to sign the legislation due to the fact that it could cost Indiana up to $4 million in federal funding due to federal laws that prohibit states from selectively allocating funds to agencies that serve Medicaid recipients.
Planned Parenthood, the non-profit agency that provides reproductive health services to millions of women -- including many of the state's Medicaid patients -- receives about $3 million per year in federal Medicaid funds, a small portion of which are devoted to abortion procedures. However, 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.
Daniels, whose staff had been researching the bill and its ramifications long before it passed, seemed satisfied that Medicaid patients would not suffer because of the new 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 said. "In addition, I have ordered the Family and Social Services Administration to see that Medicaid recipients receive prompt notice of nearby care options. We will take any actions necessary to ensure that vital medical care is, if anything, more widely available than before."
The legislation also 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.
Daniels already was feeling the heat from social conservatives less than 48 hours after the bill passed, with several evangelical leaders -- as well as one potential rival for the GOP nomination -- urging Daniels to sign the legislation into law.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum
(R-Pa.), who has campaigned relentlessly in evangelical-dominated Iowa on his reputation as a hard-liner on social issues, has criticized Daniels in recent months for his "truce" proposal. Asked on Thursday for his thoughts about Daniels' decision on the abortion bill, Santorum simply replied
, "I would hope he would sign it."
While he rankled some Republicans with his "truce" idea, 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. Indeed, Daniels hasn't been shy about touting his pro-life record, telling conservative radio host Laura Ingraham
in February, "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."
Despite his overtures to the pro-life community, conservative leaders stood ready to pounce if Daniels decided to veto the bill. "I can't imagine he would have national possibilities of running for president if he vetoes a piece of legislation like this," Family Research Council President Tony Perkins told National Review
Daniels has promised to announce his decision on running for president soon after the end of Indiana's legislative session, which wraps up today. If he runs, Daniels would immediately be able to tout two blockbuster legislative achievements -- the abortion bill, along with his recently passed landmark education reform bill -- and enter the Republican primary with two significant ideological victories under his belt, providing him with a strong running start in what has been a slow-developing contest.
Daniels' decision is expected sometime next week, as he told
the Indianapolis Star
on Thursday that he would not announce his plans over the weekend.
Updated at 8:04 p.m.