May 5, 2011; Source: New York Times | Indiana governor and putative Republican presidential candidate, Mitch Daniels, has reneged on a commitment to maintain a “truce” on social issues in the state’s and the nation’s budget crisis “by mak(ing) it impossible for Medicaid recipients to make use of the 28 Planned Parenthood clinics in the state and ban(ning) abortions for pregnancies that have reached 20 weeks,” according to Gail Collins of the New York Times.

Actually, only four of the 28 Indiana clinics even offer abortions, and Daniels, a former Office of Management and Budget director under President George W. Bush, surely knows that according to federal law Medicaid funds can’t be used to pay for abortions anyhow.

What is the real meaning of the Republican assault – through state budgets – on funding for abortions? It is really an assault on women’s rights to choose health care providers, with Republicans taking aim at starving Planned Parenthood clinics by denying Medicaid recipients the ability to go to them for services.

Is this assault limited to just Daniels in Indiana? No way. The Texas legislature stuck a provision in a women’s health care program that prevents any public funds for any kind of health service whatsoever from going to an organization that provides abortions, even though Texas law prevents state or federal funds from paying for abortions. Read between the lines, it is an effort to defund Planned Parenthood. The Texas legislation even contains a “poison pill” provision so that if Planned Parenthood or others successfully challenge the provision in court, the entire Women’s Medicaid Health Program, with $3 million in state funds and $28 million in federal matching money covering 120,000 women, would be terminated.

Similar efforts to starve Planned Parenthood have cropped up in the legislatures of Connecticut, Kansas, North Carolina, and New Hampshire.

Since Medicaid doesn’t pay for abortions, these budgetary actions really lead to a much more heinous outcome than simply making abortions more difficult to get. They take aim at putting a women’s health care provider, abortions or not, out of business. They deprive poor women their choice of health clinics under the guise of a state government stance of opposing abortions. If anyone hasn’t looked, do so.

Planned Parenthood clinics have a stellar track record in providing health services to poor women. By trying to put Planned Parenthood out of business, these states will be causing direct and demonstrable harm to the women these programs ostensibly exist to help.—Rick Cohen