11:55am

Tue May 10, 2011
U.S.

Indiana Bill Would Slash Planned Parenthood Funding

Gov. Mitch Daniels, a possible Republican presidential candidate, is expected soon to sign a bill that would make Indiana the first state to strip Planned Parenthood of government funding.

If that happens, Indiana resident Nicole Robbins says she doesn't know what she'll do. The 31-year-old single mother had been paying out of pocket to go to a midtown Indianapolis Planned Parenthood when she first became a patient five years ago but switched to Medicaid after she lost her job. The funding cut means Planned Parenthood will no longer accept Medicaid.

"I'm not working at the time, so I won't have no insurance, no income, so basically, that leaves me with nothing," says Robbins, now a student.

Robbins says she's been looking into other options and found only one — a local health services group. But she has to buy into their health plan, and there's already a waiting list for care. When Robbins went to the Indiana Department of Health looking for information, she says workers there directed her to a clinic that only does TB testing and standard physicals — no Pap smears, no breast exams, no STD tests.

"If you don't have any insurance, really, it's kind of like cut and dry," Robbins says.

At the Planned Parenthood of Indiana headquarters in downtown Indianapolis, President and CEO Betty Cockrum sits in her office, which is covered nearly wall to wall in posters and signs advertising the organization, none of which mention abortion. She says this intense focus on abortion is unfair.

"The mission of Planned Parenthood, principally, is to provide basic reproductive health care to patients, and most of those, the vast majority of them, are low-income women and men here in Indiana," Cockrum says.

But Indiana Right to Life Legislative Director Sue Swayze strongly disagrees.

"I would call it branding. I think they're branded. Their corporate brand is the face of abortions. And I think that is their mission," Swayze says.

Swayze concedes, though, that federal law prohibits public funds paying directly for abortions. But she says the fact that taxpayer dollars support Planned Parenthood, a group that performs abortions, is unacceptable, a sentiment Daniels echoes.

Daniels' position on the bill has been watched closely because of his potential run for the White House. He had previously suggested the GOP set aside social issues while trying to fix the nation's budget problems. But Daniels says his suggestions for a truce were more about the national fight, not the state one.

"This is not the first right-to-life bill I've signed. It's consistent with policy I've always had, and I was for this bill from the beginning. There's no reason for me to change my mind," Daniels says.

Hospitals are exempt from the funding cuts, meaning Planned Parenthood is the only organization being targeted. Daniels says before announcing his intention to sign the legislation, he made sure there would be enough other options for women should Planned Parenthood lose its government funding. He says those options include rural health clinics and community health centers located all across the state.

But Cockrum says the measure would prevent 22,000 women from accessing Planned Parenthood without paying out of pocket, and the other options Daniels talks about won't be able to handle that load. The midtown Indianapolis location Robbins uses will lose about $155,000 per year if it can no longer accept Medicaid.

Robbins says she hopes she can find a job and come back to Planned Parenthood. She says she really likes coming here. "The people here are friendly. The disposition of everybody never changes, always answering questions, always consistent in care," she says. "They're always there."

The bill now awaits Daniels' signature. Once he signs it, the funding cuts to Planned Parenthood in Indiana will go into effect immediately. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.