News Maternity and Birthing

“Pro-life” Nebraska Governor to Veto Legislation Guaranteeing Prenatal Care to Immigrant Women

Kari Ann Rinker

The same Governor who signed the “fetal pain” bill will be using the same pen to veto the legislation reversing the policy whose effects will hurt wanted, pain capable infants.  The mothers of these wanted infants will experience their baby’s deaths prior to their first birthdays, as American infants residing on American soil.

Prenatal care… this should be one area where both sides of the abortion debate can come together, hold hands singing Kumbayah and work toward ensuring access for all women, regardless of their creed, politics, race or any other identifying factor.  I mean, the anti-choice side being willing to grant full “personhood” rights to fertilized eggs surely guarantees that medical care should be granted to these “persons” to insure healthy birth outcomes, right? Early and adequate prenatal care is key to healthy births.  Making sure policies are in place to insure wanted babies are able to be born and thrive in their first year of life just kinda screams “pro-life,” right?

Well, it seems that the Nebraska GOP is finding this concept problematic.  As a matter of fact, the Nebraska legislature is in the midst of a pretty heated exchange over prenatal care and the problem boils down to skin color, specifically the immigration status of the “pre-born” baby mamas.

The Associated Press reports:

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman promised Wednesday to veto a bill that would restore taxpayer-funded prenatal care coverage for illegal immigrants and singled out a fellow Republican leader who backed the measure.

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The governor told reporters he was “extraordinarily disappointed” in the Legislature’s first-round vote to advance the measure in the waning days of this year’s session.

Heineman aimed his criticism at Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood, a Republican who supported the bill.

“Taxpayer funds should not be used for illegal individuals,” Heineman said, reading from a letter his office hand-delivered to the speaker’s office. “If this bill becomes law, Nebraska will become a magnet for illegal aliens. Nebraska will become the only state in the Midwest providing taxpayer-funded benefits to illegals. None of our neighboring states, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota, provide taxpayer-funded benefits to illegals.”

This has been an ongoing battle for the Nebraska legislature.  It is also important to point out that this disagreement is ripe with conflicts for the GOP, both morally and fiscally.  The National Conference of State Legislatures calls it a “challenge” for states.  The NCSL also states the following:

Early and continuous prenatal care provides women with opportunities for ongoing assessment for one of the most significant complications of pregnancy — low birth weight. Low birth weight and very low birth weight which result from a failure of the fetus to fully develop (intrauterine growth retardation), the infant being born too soon (pre-term) or a combination of both, contribute substantially to infant mortality and childhood disabilities. Studies estimate that every dollar spent on prenatal care yields between $1.70 and $3.38 in savings by reducing neonatal complications. The savings increase dramatically when the long-term costs of caring for newborns with physical and developmental disabilities are considered, and are even greater when unforeseen maternal complications are avoided.

In addition to the cost savings associated with prenatal care, such care offers many undocumented women their first exposure to the United States health care system as well as their first opportunity since entering the United States to be screened and treated for communicable diseases. Perinatal identification and effective treatment of communicable diseases, such as TB, chlamydia (a sexually transmitted disease or STD) and HIV, can be lifesaving for both the mother and infant, protect communities from epidemics and save hundreds of thousands of dollars in remedial care. Epidemiologists have found that every dollar spent on prevention care for undocumented women, including prenatal care with screening for STD’s, saves over $13; and each prevented case of fetal HIV saves an estimated $400.

The NCSL broke down the fiscal implications, and there are also some obvious moral implications inherent in the GOP anti-choice push within state legislatures to grant personhood to fertilized eggs and fetuses, and Nebraska stands as a leader in the fetal rights obsession.  As Robin Marty pointed out in her previous reporting here at Rewire, Nebraska was the first state of pass the “fetal pain law,”… the law that is more aptly described as a pre-viability abortion ban within the state.  Supporters of the law often use the language “pain-capable human beings” when referring to post 20-week fetuses, even though medical and scientific evidence shows they are not pain-capable.

Yet these “pain-capable 20-week human beings” are among those currently being denied prenatal care in the state of Nebraska.  The Governor who signed the “fetal pain” bill will be using the same pen to veto the legislation reversing the policy whose effects will hurt actual, wanted, pain-capable infants, the same infants who are significantly more likely to become a part of Nebraska’s infant mortality statistic due to lack of prenatal care. The mothers of these wanted infants will be far more likely to experience their baby’s deaths prior to their first birthdays, as American infants residing on American soil.

The conflict highlights the fact that health care just shouldn’t be politicized.  Whether it is the right of women to obtain abortions from their physicians or the rights of women to obtain pre-natal care on US soil, regardless of immigration status.  The pro-choice movement is consistent in supporting a woman’s choice to access the health care that she needs….period and anti-choice politicians find themselves in the business of making continuous exceptions for their ever twisting, turning and contradictory policy pursuits.

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