Dynamic Diaspora: Women and Immigration

Part: 2

Nebraska Prenatal Bill Stirs Fight Over Immigration

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Nebraska votes this month on a bill that would provide prenatal care for all pregnant, low-income women regardless of immigrant status. The governor says he plans to veto, because tax-funded programs should only benefit full citizens.

(WOMENSENEWS)--Should a state be required to provide prenatal care for women with undocumented status?

A bill under contention in Nebraska proposes joining 14 states and the District of Columbia in providing prenatal care for all pregnant, low-income women regardless of immigrant status under CHIP, the children's health insurance program.

It is authored by Republican Sen. Kathy Campbell, a long-time advocate for women and children, who says the bill is "morally right because all children deserve to be born healthy." Republican Gov. Dave Heineman opposes it, saying taxpayer-funded benefits should not reach people without legal citizenship.

The bill is also backed by organizations that span the spectrum of opinions on fetal and maternal rights.

Nebraska Right to Life argues that providing prenatal care improves the chances that a woman will choose to give birth rather than seek an abortion.

The organization said it would consider legislators' votes in making campaign endorsements.

Heineman told the state's bishops on March 4 that although he respected their view that denying coverage might lead some women to seek abortion, he would not support the bill. Roman Catholics represent one-third of voters in the state.

The bill is also backed by organizations such as Voices for Children in Nebraska, which advocates for pregnant women and children, the Nebraska Medical Association and every medical organization in the state, many of which support a woman's right to choose.

However, many individuals spoke out against the bill at a hearing of the Health and Human Services Committee Feb. 25, urging the legislature to create an environment that would force expectant mothers to return to their native lands by denying them prenatal care, jobs and housing.

'No Options'

"Immigrant women don't have options," said Jennifer Carter, director of the health care access program of Nebraska Appleseed, a not-for-profit law project in Lincoln that supports the bill. "Although most immigrants work, they lack health insurance because their employers don't provide it and they earn too little to afford to buy individual policies."

The decision, later this month, will need 30 of 49 votes to overcome Heineman's veto.

In a recent interview with Women's eNews, Campbell said the bill makes financial sense for Nebraska because children of undocumented mothers become citizens at birth and therefore eligible for state health programs.

"It is more economical for the state to pay a small sum for prenatal care than huge bills for a child who is born premature or with serious complications that could have been prevented and will require expensive interventions throughout life," said Campbell, an advocate for children for over 30 years.

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Dynamic Diaspora: Women and Immigration

Dynamic Diaspora: Women and Immigration


Series Overview

Dynamic Diaspora: Women and Immigration

Part: 12

Few Care for the Undocumented With Breast Cancer

Part: 11

Nebraska Prenatal Bill Stirs Fight Over Immigration

Part: 10

Visas Out of Hell: Women Need to Know They Exist

Part: 9

Deportation of Mothers in Iowa Tests Local Charity

Part: 8

Women's ESL Dominance Tied to Job Demands

Part: 7

For Street Vendor, Another Holiday in Shadows

Part: 6

Arrested Iowa Meat Packers Live in Legal Limbo

Part: 5

Battered Immigrants in Arizona Find Few Havens

Part: 4

Recession Shrinks Safety Net for Immigrant Women

Part: 3

Immigrant Survivors of Abuse Seek Freedom

Part: 2

U Visas Speed Up for Immigrants Who Flee Abuse

Part: 1

U Visa Recipients Look for Better Enforcement