Mitch Daniels Continues GOP’s Use of Women’s Bodies as Political Pawns

Indiana women: Your bodies are now officially political pawns.  And Governor Daniels is calling check mate.

In a June 24, 2010, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, told The Weekly Standard, that, “the next president, whoever he [she?] is, would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues. We’re going to just have to agree to get along for a little while” until the economic issues are resolved.

Daniels, noted the Standard article “is pro-life himself, and he gets high marks from conservative religious groups in his state.”

Daniels, according to the Washington Post, has repeated this same call for a truce numerous times, making the case in both print articles and broadcast interviews that Republicans should put aside such issues in 2012 to focus on economic problems.

“We’re going to need to unify all kinds of people, and we’re going — freedom is going — to need every friend it can get,” he explained in a recent interview.

In other words, it looked, for a while, like Daniels might actually be walking the otherwise empty talk from Republicans and Tea Partiers who campaigned on economic issues and “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Today, he showed that his own political rhetoric also has a very short shelf-life: He promised to sign into law a bill that will forbid state funding of Planned Parenthood, will ban abortion coverage in the state health insurance exchange and will block women’s access to safe, legal abortion, even when their health is at risk. 

The bill is expected to affect about $4 million in federal funds that would no longer go to Indiana, notes Amy Sullivan of Time.

“Planned Parenthood clinics in the state receive less than that annually, but Indiana would lose all of its Title X money because a state can’t pick and choose which family planning providers it wants to fund.” 

This means that there will be greatly diminished access for women and men in Indiana to family planning services, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, cervical and breast cancer screening, and, in a state with high rates of obesity, reduced access to primary care and life-saving screenings for hypertension and diabetes, among other services. 

This is as much a fiscal and economic issue as it is a social issue: Half of all births in the state, for example, are covered by Medicaid. And, states Planned Parenthood of Indiana President Betty Cockrum, “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.

“What are the consequences of taking away federal funding that passes through the state to PPIN? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that the legalization of birth control was one of the 10 most meaningful advances in public health policy in the last century.  And yet our legislative leadership has unplugged those most in need from that essential service. They are creating a lose-lose for Hoosiers. Decreased birth control means more unintended pregnancy.  More unintended pregnancy means increased Medicaid spending.” 

Indiana already has one of the highest rates of Medicaid-covered births, notes Cockrum.

“The cost is already 450 million dollars,” she said. “Logic would suggest that those births will lead to Medicaid-covered dependents for perhaps 18 years.  The lawmakers have outdone themselves in contributing further to the cycle of poverty here in Indiana, where 22 percent of our children live below the poverty line.”

Moreover, the current situation will undoubtedly get worse.  Reduced access to family planning will unquestionably result in more unintended pregnancies. Where do those low-income women–whether with planned or unplanned pregnancies–now go and who pays for these births?

None of these funds, by law, are used for abortion, so that is not on the table.

So why the shift?

It’s easy: Daniels is apparently eyeing a Presidential run, and feels he needs to build his cred with the fanatics now running the Republican Party.  So rather than standing up for common sense he himself espoused, he is using the bodies–the health, well-being and lives–of the women of Indiana in a dangerous game of chess. In this game, however, women have everything to lose and nothing to gain for the purpose of Mitch Daniel’s political aspirations.

“The signing of HB 1210 into law is unconscionable and unspeakable.  We will now suffer the consequences of lawmakers who have no regard for fact-based decision making and sound public health policy,” said Cockrum.

And apparently no regard whatsoever for women of their own state.

The bill will also cost the state in other ways: Cockrum states that Planned Parenthood of Indiana will file an injunction “immediately to try to halt this alarming erosion of public health policy in our state.”

And it isn’t clear how effective Daniels strategy of capitulating to extremism would help him win the Presidency in any case.  The fact is that the vast majority of women in this country use contraception at some point in their reproductive lives, and women writ large need access to screening for basic reproductive cancers, among the many other primary care services provided by Planned Parenthood. He may earn the adulation of anti-choice extremists, but these positions are not supported by the majority of the public.

In any case, what this episode makes clear once again is that Mitch Daniels considers his political career more important than your life.  Remember that the next time he tells you just how “pro-life” he is.