Daniels Will Sign Abortion Bill

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Governor Mitch Daniels, the man who proposed a “truce” on social issues, will sign a bill restricting abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and making Indiana the first state to choke off government funding to Planned Parenthood clinics. The AP reports:

Daniels said he supported the abortion restrictions from the outset and that the provision added to defund Planned Parenthood did not change his mind. He said women’s health, family planning and other services will remain available.

“The principle involved commands the support of an overwhelming majority of Hoosiers,” Daniels said in a statement announcing his intention to sign the bill when it arrives on his desk in about a week.

But doing so also puts Daniels’ state at risk of losing $4 million a year in federal family planning grants likely to be cut off because of the legislation. Daniels, known as a fiscal hawk, did not address the loss in his statement.

His decision will inevitably lead to chatter of a presidential bid, but his hands were pretty much tied. A veto could’ve sparked a conservative backlash against him, both from statehouse Republicans in Indiana and social conservatives nationwide. He could have opted to let the bill languish on his desk for a few days, at which point it would have become law anyway, but that would’ve invited both conservative discontent and opened him up to charges that he’d simply ducked a tough choice. That he announced his decision late on a Friday afternoon might say something about his eagerness (or lack thereof) to see the story carried widely in the national media.

Daniels was always pro-life, but his conservative legislature put him in a tricky spot. If he does have presidential ambitions, this kind of legislation can be a great asset in a GOP primary — and a serious albatross in a general election. Earlier this year, Daniels managed to convince Republican allies in the legislature  to back off a “right to work” bill restricting labor unions in the state, arguing that Democrats’ protests and procedural maneuvers would sabotage the rest of his agenda (and that he’d already addressed collective bargaining issues.) This time, he couldn’t escape the dilemma.