INDIANAPOLIS | The Republican-controlled Indiana General Assembly is close to forcing Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels to choose between his dedication to financial prudence and his social conservative principles.
At issue is House Bill 1210, which the Senate changed last week to defund Planned Parenthood of Indiana, the largest abortion-provider in the state and a frequent punching bag for anti-abortion conservatives.
The legislation, which is headed to a House-Senate conference committee, prohibits the state from distributing $3 million in federal funds that are used to provide 22,000 low-income Hoosiers with low-cost birth control. Federal funds are prohibited by law from being spent on abortion.
Betty Cockrum, president of Planned Parenthood of Indiana, said if Indiana blocks federal funds for birth control services at Planned Parenthood -- which has health centers in East Chicago, Gary and Michigan City -- it will lead to more unwanted pregnancies in Indiana and more abortions.
"If they want to reduce the number of abortions, it makes no sense to make birth control harder to get for thousands of Hoosiers who rely on Planned Parenthood of Indiana for their preventive health care," Cockrum said.
Other provisions of the pending legislation also would make it more difficult for Indiana women to obtain an abortion if they want one, likely leading to more births -- at an added cost to the state.
According to the Family and Social Services Administration, more than half of Indiana births are paid for by Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for low-income Americans.
In 2008, the state's cost for more than 40,000 Medicaid births amounted to $450 million. Medicaid deliveries also tend to require expensive follow-up care due to birth complications, low birth-weight babies and less participation in prenatal care, according to FSSA.
Cost estimates projecting how much more money Indiana may have to spend on additional Medicaid births -- as well as future child education costs and other government expenses -- due to state denial of federal funds for birth control for low-income Hoosiers are not available.
For state Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, who led the Senate charge to defund Planned Parenthood, it's wrong to reduce the question to dollars and cents.
"The sanctity of human life should supersede any of those decisions," Schneider said.
But the governor has a track record of supporting small expenses today to avoid much larger expenses down the road, especially when the money at stake comes from the federal government.
For example, Daniels' prison sentencing reform plan would save Indiana billions in prison construction and staffing costs in years to come by reducing sentences now for low-level felony offenders.
So what will the anti-abortion, fiscally conservative governor do regarding the proposed defunding of Planned Parenthood?
Spokeswoman Jane Jankowski said Daniels has not made any decision on the issue and will wait to see whether the defunding provision is included in the legislation if it makes it to the governor's desk.
Despite appearing to be painted into a corner, Daniels may get a way out due to the supremacy of federal law over state law.
Medicaid rules allow states to define qualified health care providers, but that determination can be based only on the ability to provide the health services offered, not on political considerations.
The nonpartisan Indiana Legislative Services Agency says that likely means Planned Parenthood will continue to receive federal grants for birth control services regardless of any Indiana law prohibiting distribution of those funds.
Cockrum said Planned Parenthood is prepared to sue for its money if the proposal is signed into law.