So much for that ‘truce’

SO MUCH FOR THAT ‘TRUCE’…. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), a potential presidential candidate in 2012, caused a stir in conservative circles recently when he suggested it’s time for a “truce” on culture-war issues. The religious right and leaders like Mike Huckabee were outraged.

But what would the “truce” look like in practice? The right probably shouldn’t worry too much about Daniels’ conservative bona fides. The Washington Post‘s Michael Gerson talked to the Indiana governor this week, and found that Daniels’ interest in cultural-war issues hasn’t disappeared after all.

“I would reinstate the Mexico City policy,” Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels told me, removing an uncertainty of his own creation. Promoting abortion with international family planning funds is one of “a thousand things we shouldn’t be spending money on.”

Yet days earlier, when asked if he would return to that family planning rule as president, Daniels had responded: “I don’t know.” It is a measure of Daniels’ standing as a possible Republican candidate in 2012 that his answer caused a considerable stir.

That quick evolution in Daniels’ thinking matters. He wanted a “truce” on issues like abortion, and said he didn’t know whether he would return to the GOP-backed family planning rule. But in the wake of the far-right freak-out, Daniels had a sudden change of heart. Imagine that.

For the record, Daniels’ willingness to “reinstate the Mexico City policy” tells us quite a bit about his worldview. This is a dreadful policy — which President Obama wisely reversed soon after taking office — that undermines women’s health care around the world.

The “Mexico City” policy prohibits US dollars and contraceptive supplies from going to any international family planning program that provides abortions or counsels women about their reproductive health options. The policy isn’t about money going to pay for abortions. Even those groups that use only private funds for abortion services — where abortion is legal — are barred from assistance. This is money going to family planning programs. […]

[N]ot only are organizations that provide or counsel about abortion services affected; those that dare to take part in a public discussion about legalizing abortion are also affected (hence the name “global gag rule”)…. This policy has nothing to do with government-sponsored abortions overseas. Ten years before the gag rule was in place the law strictly prohibited that. This policy is about disqualifying prochoice organizations from receiving US international family planning funding.

Under Bush’s policy, organizations that play a vital role in women’s health are forced to make an impossible choice. If they refuse to be “gagged,” they lose the funding that enables them to help women and families who are cut off from basic health care and family planning. But if they accept funding, they must accept restrictions that jeopardize the health of the women they serve.

If Daniels would want to return U.S. policy to this gag-rule, it would be stoking the culture-war fires — which is the opposite of a “truce.”