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Governor Mitch Daniels' Women Problem Is the GOP's, Too

Governor Mitch Daniels' recent decision to pass on a presidential run should serve as a warning to all Republican leaders.

Governor Daniels said that his wife and daughters had "veto power" over the decision. But that verbal nod to both family and women was starkly at odds with the anti-women, anti-family, anti-health care agenda that all the Republican contenders are being asked to sign off on as a condition of their candidacy. And voters are noticing -- particularly the independent-minded women who are actually going to be deciding the 2012 elections.

Daniels, we were told by many, is a moderate and levelheaded fellow -- supposedly one of the grownups in the Republican Party. Yet in the run-up to his possible presidential race, Daniels made a decision to follow the right wing in his state's legislature and his congressional leadership in barring federal funding for preventive health care to Planned Parenthood.

It's a decision that was as morally disastrous as it was politically counterproductive. Morally disastrous because thousands of Indiana women rely on Planned Parenthood as their chief health provider. Planned Parenthood of Indiana provided services last year to 85,000 patients, including 21,150 pregnancy tests, 26,500 Pap tests for cervical cancer and 33,000 tests for sexually transmitted diseases. And of Indiana's 28 Planned Parenthood health centers, many are located in rural and medically underserved areas where women have few options for affordable health care.

When Gov. Daniels signed legislation barring Planned Parenthood from providing health care under the federal Medicaid program, 9,300 patients at 28 locations lost services from their preferred provider. In addition to putting the lives and health of thousands of Indiana families at risk, the governor's action is also at odds with federal policy that bans states from discriminating by provider -- and risks the state forfeiting all federal Medicaid funding.


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And Daniels act was politically counterproductive because poll after poll shows that voters -- especially women -- understand just how vital Planned Parenthood's services really are. In fact, in a recent set of polls by Public Policy Polling, more than a dozen political swing states showed that women see just how misguided the ideological agenda of those who oppose Planned Parenthood really is.

The polls showed 63 percent of voters wanted to keep funding Planned Parenthood's cervical cancer screenings, 65 percent wanted to keep funding our breast exams, 62 percent wanted to keep funding our providing birth control, and 65 percent wanted to keep funding our testing for sexually transmitted infections. And an amazing 54 percent were less likely to support a candidate -- in this case, a Senate candidate -- who tried to defund our services.

Gov. Daniels isn't alone in misreading the signs of the time. Every last one of the major Republican candidates for president has publicly stated they support the effort to bar federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

No one but Mitch Daniels himself knows exactly why he didn't run. But it's not hard to imagine that he saw just how far off the right side of the road he was going to have to run to get the Republican nomination -- and just how hard it was going to be to find his way back to sanity come the general election.

The conventional wisdom says that Republicans are squandering their supposed 2010 mandate by following an ideological agenda instead of focusing first on creating jobs. It's clear to us that conventional wisdom in this case is right, particularly when it comes to their attacks on basic women's health care.

Cecile Richards

Cecile Richards is president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, PPFA's political arm. Cecile writes about election issues as the president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. She is a leader in national progressive politics with more than 20 years of experience working on behalf of reproductive freedom and social justice.

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