WASHINGTON - The U.S. Justice Department has entered a legal battle on behalf of abortion provider Planned Parenthood over a new Indiana law that bans taxpayer funding for abortions.
Indiana's legislature passed the law last month, which disqualifies Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funding in the state because it provides abortions.
The move has some pro-lifers concerned that Indiana, a state some consider pivotal in the fight for the rights of the unborn, will fold under the pressure.
Within weeks of regaining control of the house, Republicans stamped the words "pro-life" all over their agenda.
"A ban on taxpayer funding of abortion is the will of the people and ought to be the law of the land," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in May when the House passed the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.
The GOP-controlled chamber has passed anti-abortion measures since the start of the session in January. But in the Senate, Democrats hold the power.
"It's incredibly frustrating to see things stop at the Senate," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List. "And even if it didn't stop at the Senate, it would stop at the doors of the Oval Office."
States Flex Pro-Life Muscles
Just because these bills tend to stall or die in the Senate doesn't mean it's slowed momentum. Instead, the focus has shifted from the national stage to what's taking place in state capitols around the country.
Alabama is the latest state to advance a fetal pain bill, banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The state joins about two dozen other states taking action this year.
"This is a fire moving across the country," Dannenfelser, said.
Right now, that fire is burning brightest in the state of Indiana.
Last month, Gov. Mitch Daniels made headlines by signing a law defunding Planned Parenthood, making it illegal for Indiana to contract with health care providers that perform abortions.
Planned Parenthood of Indiana responded by calling the state "one of the most anti-woman states in the country." The group claims that "94 percent of the health care it provides is preventive."
Now a federal court judge will decide by July 1 whether to step in and put the law on hold.
Feds Threaten Ind. Medicaid
In the meantime, a powerful ally has come to Planned Parenthood's defense -- the Obama administration.
Justice Department officials have threatened to pull $5.3 billion from Indiana's Medicaid funding, arguing that the new law restricts patient access.
And a Medicaid national director sent out a memo warning other states against following Indiana's example. Pro-life leaders are worried that this type of pressure might force the state to back down.
"Every other state that is looking to defund Planned Parenthood right now is looking to what happens in Indiana," Dannenfelser said. "And so standing strong there will have huge repercussions across the country."
Meanwhile, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, is encouraging pro-life supporters to stay strong, reasoning that this is ultimately a debate about the values that shape America.
"It's critical what's happening in the state level," he said.
"If we don't win in that fight, if we don't prevail in that debate, we may not have the toughness that it takes to prevail in the economic concerns and the foreign policy and terrorist concerns that we face as a nation as well, so that one is critical," Jordan warned.
"And it all centers around government protecting the sanctity of human life," he said.