So is Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels going to run for president or not?
That lingering question which has occupied the minds of political observers for weeks now will only be asked with more intensity now that he's let it be known that he intends to sign a bill banning Planned Parenthood from receiving state taxpayer funds.
Daniels' decision would make Indiana the first state to enact such a ban. Planned Parenthood's receipt of taxpayer funds has angered conservatives because, along with the preventive health-care services it provides to women, it also provides abortions.
What makes Daniels' decision particularly ironic is that he recently urged Republicans to set aside divisive social issues to focus on economic ones, particularly the creation of jobs which polls of voters indicate has been their top concern.
As NPR's Julie Rovner put it in a report for the network's newscast:
Daniels... had called for a "truce" on social issues until the nation's economic crisis is settled.
But he's apparently making an exception for the bill that would stop the state from funding — or passing along funding it gets from Washington — to Planned Parenthood or any other organization that performs abortions or operates a facility where abortions are performed. Abortions have never been permitted using federal family planning funds.
The Indiana legislation is reminiscent of an unsuccessful effort by congressional Republicans to ban Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal tax dollars even though most of the medical care it provides women, more than 90 percent, has nothing to do with abortion services.
An Indianapolis Star report provides some information from a statement the governor issued:
In a statement, Daniels said he had supported the 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."
He said this view was supported by an "overwhelming majority" of Hoosiers, and that it will not impede women's ability to get health care, as Planned Parenthood has asserted.
"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. 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," Daniels said.
Betty Cockrum, president of Planned Parenthood of Indiana, wasn't as optimistic as Daniels:
"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.
"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. The cost is already 450 million dollars. 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.
"We will be filing an injunction immediately to try to halt this alarming erosion of public health policy in our state."
If Daniels decides to run for the Republican nomination, his decision could be viewed as fitting the traditional pattern of White House hopefuls in which Republicans run to the right and Democrats to the left to secure their party's nomination, then towards the political center in the general election.
Daniels' decision, for instance, should lift his stock with the social conservatives who comprise many of his party's activists who can help a candidate win the early primaries.
It could make his job harder in a general election campaign, however.