So much for being pro-life. Nebraska, the state that outlawed nearly all abortions past 20 weeks, eliminated prenatal care for about 1600 Medicaid patients last March. A year later, the results are stark: at least five babies have died and more women are foregoing prenatal care, with sometimes tragic consequences. As the Lincoln Journal Star reports:
At least five babies have died. Women are traveling 155 miles to get prenatal care. Babies have been delivered at clinics, in ambulances and hospital emergency rooms… About half of the women dropped from the program are undocumented. Those babies are U.S. citizens as soon as they are born and will automatically qualify for Medicaid health services upon delivery.
At the Good Neighbor Community Health Center in Columbus, the number of female patients has doubled, and the income for the prenatal program has dropped drastically, said Rebecca Rayman, executive director. Women are coming to the center from 22 counties. Even with shifting money from other programs, the clinic finished 2010 losing $167,530. Four infants died in utero at the Columbus health center, she said. In the previous seven years, the clinic had never had an in utero death.
A bill currently on the Nebraska state floor would reinstate Medicaid prenatal coverage for all Nebraska “pre-citizens”, regardless of the legal status of their mothers. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Kathy Campbell, states that “ensuring prenatal care for more children will significantly help reduce infant mortality… and will spare many infants from the burden of congenital disabilities and reduce the cost of treating those congenital disabilities after birth.” However, a similar bill sponsored by Campbell failed in 2010 because Campbell could not get enough votes to pass it in the Senate. Part of the lack of support came from increased pressure by anti-immigration groups, but a threatened veto by Gov. Dave Heineman was key.
Pro-life groups have been divided on the issue of providing care to undocumented pregnant women in Nebraska. The Archdiocese of Nebraska endorsed Campbell’s bill reinstating prenatal coverage, but Nebraska Right to Life continued to endorse Gov. Heineman even after he decided that not all unborn children are created equal. It’s ironic that although Gov. Heineman has been rabidly anti-abortion, his anti-immigrant views may be creating more terminations. Some low-income women reportedly told their doctors they would be getting abortions rather than go through pregnancy and birth without any prenatal care. As Caron Gray, an OB/GYN practicing at the Creighton Medical Center in Omaha, told a reporter: “It comes down to a pro-life issue. If you are pro-life, then you would be doing all you can to provide care for the unborn US citizens.”