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Nebraska Prenatal Bill Causes Fight Over Immigration

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A bill being considered in Nebraska proposes that the state join 14 others and the District of Columbia in providing prenatal care for all pregnant, low income women, no matter their immigrant status.

This statute falls under the children’s health insurance program or CHIP. The author of the bill, Rep. Sen. Kathy Campbell, an advocate for women and children, said the bill is “morally right because all children deserve to be born healthy.” Rep. Gov. Dave Heinemanj is against the bill because he believes benefits funded by taxpayers should not be given to people who are not legal citizens.

The Nebraska Right to Life supports the bill because it believes providing prenatal care will decrease a woman’s chances of seeking an abortion. The Voices for Children in Nebraska, an organization that advocates for pregnant women and children, the Nebraska Medical Association and every medical organization in the state also support the bill. According to Sharon Johnson of Womensenews, "many support a woman's right to choose."

Those who spoke out against the bill, at a hearing of the Health and Human Services Committee on Feb. 25, wanted the legislature to create an atmosphere which would force pregnant women back to their home countries by denying them prenatal care, housing and jobs.

Jennifer Carter, director of the health care access program of Nebraska Appleseed, said, “Immigrant women don’t have options.”

Steven Camarota, research director of the Washington based Center for Immigration Studies, said that prenatal coverage of undocumented women is an issue of national concern. He said approximately 1 out of 10 children born in the U.S. each year is the child of an “illegal alien.” Camarota went on to say that the federal government has no coherent immigration policy, therefore, it is up to the states to decide to spend money on prenatal care for “future citizens of the state, medical care for legal residents, roads other programs.”

Senator Campbell maintains that providing prenatal care to undocumented women under the CHIP program would save Nebraska about $4 million a year.

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