April 19th, 2012
Nebraska Upholds Prenatal Care For Undocumented

By Victor Landa

It turns out pro-immigrant trumps anti-abortion in Nebraska after all. This has been a topsy-turvy issue for a few weeks so I’ll give you the need-to-know version of the details, NewsTaco has reported on the story:

The Nebraska legislature passed a law, LB599,  that restored funding for prenatal care for the unborn children of undocumented immigrants. That didn’t sit well with Nebraska’s Governor, Republican Dave Heineman, who took out his veto pen and nullified the law, saying that spending public funds on the undocumented was money ill spent.  And although the law had to do with health care and prenatal attention, there were obvious underlying issues at hand – immigration being the most obvious, abortion being more inferred.  The link to abortion has to do with two things: a recourse or option for women who lack support for the care of their unborn child; and the debate about the beginning of life – does life begin at the moment of conception?

The drawn-out drama over the issue came as a consequence of Nebraska’s rule where three votes were needed to pass the law. When the three hurdles were cleared, the law made it’s way to the Governor’s desk where it hit the veto wall. As it stood, the unborn children of undocumented mothers were denied prenatal care because the Governor of Nebraska didn’t consider them citizens, yet – and that was a large enough loophole for him to slip through and pitch a tent.

The ideological problem for Heineman, which he chose to ignore, was that  his anti-abortionist stance infers a belief that life begins at the moment of conception, so that the unborn are already persons, and if they’re persons they must have citizenship, presumably U.S. citizenship, regardless of the citizenship of the mother. So under that logic there’s no reason to deny them care.

The Nebraska legislature tossed aside all such thought and speculation, saw a need for prenatal care in their state and voted to over-ride the Governor’s veto. And that’s where it stands.

A group of Republican activists who call themselves Cafe Con Leche Republicans have been very active on this issue, petitioning and rallying in favor of the law. In defending the law they quoted the Nebraska Republican Party platform:

We believe that the concept of equal rights and equal responsibilities under the law is basic to a free society. There should be no discrimination against anyone because he/she is physically or mentally challenged, or because of race, religion, color, creed, ethnicity, gender, age, marital status or national origin.

The last word from the Cafe Con Leche Republicans is that they’re in the process of evaluating endorsements for candidates and that LB599 will weigh heavily in their decisions.

[Photo by Achim Raschka]

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