Something very encouraging is happening in Nebraska.

The anti-abortion group Nebraska Right to Life sent a letter to six State Senators yesterday urging them to support a bill restoring prenatal care to babies with undocumented mothers. In the open letter, the group’s executive director, Julie Schmit-Albin, wrote, “It is sad and alarming that we have come to this point where some of the major pro-life leaders in the Legislature are choosing to put the illegal immigration issue and who pays for what, over the life and health of babies in the womb.”

The letter went on to point out that these six senators had all likely made statements in the past about the "necessity of protecting innocent human life from fertilization on."

Can I get an "indeed"?

A little background on the situation in Nebraska: In 2010, Nebraska specifically prohibited undocumented immigrants from receiving free prenatal care provided by the state to low-income women. Pro-life groups in Nebraska have been part of the coalition to remove the prohibition, arguing that respect for life in the womb doesn't cease to matter because of who the child's mother is. I think it's great to see principles and compassion trumping partisanship here.

A few moments ago, the Nebraska legislature passed LB 599, which restores funding for pre-natal care for all low-income mothers and their unborn children regardless of immigration status. The bill will now go to Governor Dave Heineman, who has threatened a veto. Babies Born Healthy is holding a vigil at 5pm tonight at the Nebraska State Capitol to urge him to sign the bill.

Remember the Nebraska case last year when the state removed funding for prenatal care for undocumented immigrant women?

A mother in Nebraska has filed a lawsuit claiming that her child is being unlawfully denied assistance for medical care that he or she is entitled to under CHIP and Nebraska's Children's Medical Assistance Program. CHIP defines "child" as "an individual under the age of 19 including the period from conception to birth." (42 C.F.R. § 457.10).

A pregnant woman who is in the country illegally has filed a class action lawsuit contending the state of Nebraska cannot deny prenatal care to her unborn child.

“Sarah Roe,” who is nine months pregnant, argues the state can deny medical services to her, but not to her unborn baby – or to anyone else’s unborn baby, regardless of the mother’s resident status.

A state law that took effect in June denies free prenatal services to any “ineligible alien.” Roe acknowledged that she falls within that category.

However, Nebraska defines someone as a child from the time of conception until they are 19, the lawsuit said. And federal regulations say unborn children are neither citizens nor aliens.


Lawsuit: Prenatal services cannot be denied to the unborn

If the unborn are defined as children under the law, then they should be eligible to receive healthcare, argues the lawsuit. We agree. It's pro-life to provide prenatal care to children no matter what their mothers' immigration status.

Last week, we posted about women in Nebraska who have lost public funding for their prenatal care due to immigration politics.  Fear and uncertainty are driving some of these women to consider abortion because they're not sure how they'll be able to bear and raise their children.  Now there is a way that you can help. All Our Lives has created a charity badge for donations to One World Community Health Centers, Inc., aka Indian-Chicano Health Center, Inc., of Omaha, Nebraska.

If you wish, you may designate your gift specifically for prenatal care when you make your donation. Please donate if you can; if you can't, please help by spreading the word!

While we're all holding our breath waiting for the House to vote on health care reform, let's not forget another health care situation. In Nebraska, Governor Dave Heineman is still refusing to support LB110. This legislation would allow the state to continue its decades-old practice of funding prenatal care for low-income women who are undocumented immigrants. The previous prenatal care funding expired March 1, and clinics in Omaha are starting to hear from clients who are scared and considering abortion:

McVea said she has been flabbergasted by the response from her mostly Hispanic patients, who have a strong cultural and religious aversion to abortion. She said she can count on one hand the number of abortions she has been aware of over the past decade, adding that one of the clinic's translators had never heard the Spanish word for “abortion” until the past two weeks. “I just really underestimated how the loss of prenatal care would push so many people into doing something that ordinarily they would never, ever consider,” McVea said. “It's a lot of fear. Uncertainty drives a lot of women to choose an abortion.” She added that although the clinic is offering to help the women pay for prenatal services and reassures women that the government will pay for deliveries, the women don't trust that information. “We tell women, ‘It's going to be covered, you don't have to worry,' ” McVea said. “But there's a lot of fear because they've been turned down once.”

I've been in touch with OneWorld Community Health Center of Omaha, where McVea works, about earmarking donations for prenatal care at their clinic. I expect to hear back tomorrow. Please help if you can.

Via UNFPA's Conversations for a Better World: In Nebraska, prolifers and prochoicers are demanding truly universal prenatal care. It includes undocumented immgrants. May this be the wave of the future.