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.

I've gone a few rounds on Twitter with a pro-life Catholic man who likes to post anti-feminist, anti-contraception links to #fem2 (for those of you unfamiliar with Twitter, that's a hashtag for posts related to feminism) and #sexed. After reading one too many "Contraception isn't the answer; keeping sex inside marriage is the answer" tweets, I finally broke down and asked, "So, you have nothing to say to the 95% of people who have sex before marriage except, 'Follow my religion's rules.'?" He replied that his religion's rules were the best for everyone, and that he wasn't going to stop promoting them. I asked again, "What happens to that 95% of people? You don't want them to have contraception, so what happens?"

He never replied. I don't think he has an answer. At least if he does, I've never seen it.

I could ask the same question of so many anti-abortion politicians. So you refuse to provide public funding for contraception, because your base opposes it due to religious objections or anxiety about sex in our culture or whatever the case may be. What's next? Do you believe that people will simply stop having sex if they can't afford to get birth control on a regular basis? What's your evidence for that? What will happen if they don't? What effect will that have on the abortion rate?

So you defund Planned Parenthood. What's next? Where's the plan to ensure that women get the life-enhancing services they need — services like contraception, STD screening, and Pap smears? How do you intend to ensure that the clinics that still receive funds are able to take in all the new clients, and that clients are able to get to them? Don't get me wrong; it could probably be done with enough funding and political will, but are you doing it? What's next?

So you defund prenatal care for undocumented immigrants — over the objections of pro-life advocates, no less. What's next? What happens to babies when their mothers can't get prenatal care? Some of them die due to illness or prematurity. Others die of abortion.

We always have to ask, "What's next?" Passing a bill may feel good and earn points on an interest-group scorecard. But if what happens next is that your policies make people's actual lives harder and more painful, and you don't have any plan to do anything about it, what's righteous about that?

Surfin3rdWave at Feministing.com describes her vision of a feminist crisis pregnancy center.

It would:

  • Refuse to engage in "slut-shaming…'marry your baby's daddy'…fearmongering."
  • Foster choices in birthing, such as midwifery care, as well as in parenting.
  • "Offer realistic parenting classes that promote responsible parenthood while also encouraging women to view themselves as individuals–with personalities and careers" apart from their parenthood.
  • Give "free counseling services to women coping with anxiety and depression during an unplanned pregnancy," including access when needed to licensed mental health professionals.
  • "Encourage pregnant women to view their bodies as beautiful and sexy…provide information about maintaining a good sex life and a positive body-image before and after pregnancy."
  • "Help women find the financial and material resources needed to make it through pregnancy and give birth…[such as] the WIC program.  Donors could bring baby car seats, maternity clothes, cribs, nursing bras, breast pumps, and canned goods…"

All Our Lives cofounder Jen commented on this post, saying that she shared this vision of a feminist CPC and our organization would like to run one like this someday.  There are in fact ethically run CPCs who already engage in these services for women.  And to the above services, we might want to add:

  • Prevention measures such as comprehensive sex ed curricula, a full range of family planning options, and outreach tailored to groups of clients most at risk for unintended pregnancies, such as LGBT youth.
  • Male responsibility programming.
  • An advocacy department to work on systemic-level/collective changes necessary to alleviate the plight of so many pregnant women and reduce the numbers of unintended pregnancies and abortions, locally, nationally, globally.
  • Standards to help existing CPCs evaluate and improve their services, and aid in the creation of new ones.

 

Please also see the discussion of Surfin3rdWave's post on the All Our Lives Facebook group.

The US may be a nation of unimaginable wealth, but its poorest women and children are made to live in quite another country, one of constrained resources and alternatives. And here are some of the real-life results:

The proportion of abortion patients who were poor increased by almost 60%—from 27% in 2000 to 42% in 2008 […].

The growing concentration of abortion among women with incomes below the federal poverty line likely reflects a combination of factors. Between 2000 and 2008, the proportion of women in the overall population who were poor increased by 25%. And a Guttmacher study published in the Fall of 2009 showed that the deep economic recession may also have played a role, as financial concerns led more women to want to delay childbearing or limit the number of children they have.

(Guttmacher Institute, Abortion Has Become More Concentrated Among Poor Women)

Not only are poor women less likely than more affluent women to be able to afford to raise a child without assistance, they are also less likely to be able to afford health care, including both prenatal/childbirth care and access to prescription contraception. One of the key reasons that women who use oral contraceptives sometimes miss pills (and are therefore more likely to become pregnant) is that they put off filling prescriptions for financial reasons.

We hope that the health care bill recently passed by Congress can help counteract these pressures on lower-income women.

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.

Last Saturday, I had my first long-form interview on the Shared Sacrifice BlogTalkRadio show. It was more than a little nerve-wracking. The great thing about Shared Sacrifice is that guests get a full hour to talk about the issues that are important to them. The difficult thing is — guests get a full hour to talk about the issues that are important to them! I'm very much an introvert, so it's rare for me to talk to anyone for an hour straight about anything. It went pretty well, with one exception. The question of legal policy came up, as it always does, and I had a lot of trouble with it. It's very hard to answer. I know what's wrong. It's wrong that unborn human beings have no status in law. It's wrong for the destruction of one of our daughters or sons before birth to be considered the equivalent of an appendectomy. It's also wrong that Amalia in Nicaragua can't be treated for cancer because she's pregnant. It's wrong that a woman who has a miscarriage could face prosecution in Utah. It's wrong that Christine Taylor could fall down a flight of stairs and then be arrested for attempted feticide after she went to the emergency room to see if she and her baby were OK. I know what I want. I want social and legal recognition that in every pregnancy, there are two (or more) lives whose needs and interests we need to balance. What I don't know is how to get there from here. I don't know how to get to the point of balancing two people's interests when we only acknowledge one person's existence. I also don't know how to legally acknowledge the personhood of the unborn, in anything remotely resembling the current political climate, without inviting situations like Amalia's and Christine Taylor's. I know what we can do. We can make the case for the human personhood of both pregnant women and the children they carry. We can urge people to consider that when they have sex, they are responsible for the well-being not only of themselves and their partners, but of any children they might conceive as well. We can work for women's freedom to make all nonviolent choices regarding sexuality and reproduction. We can work for laws that directly benefit both mother and child, such as the expansion of prenatal care in Nebraska. Beyond that … I'm just not sure. I would very much like to hear the thoughts of readers and my co-bloggers. What laws can pro-balance people favor to bring about justice for women and children without contributing to the further oppression of either party?

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.

At Conversations for a Better World, a multivoiced blog sponsored by UNFPA, an All Our Lives cofounder defends guaranteed maternity care as a universal human right: It Affects Us All: Maternal Healthcare