Heineman vetoes prenatal bill - Omaha.com
Published Saturday, April 14, 2012 at 12:00 am / Updated at 2:35 am
Heineman vetoes prenatal bill

LINCOLN — As promised, Gov. Dave Heineman on Friday vetoed a controversial bill that would restore prenatal services for illegal immigrants.

But the pro-life governor's veto message included a new and potentially explosive new charge: that some of the prenatal funds could find their way to a leading pro-choice organization, Planned Parenthood.

“I oppose providing taxpayer benefits to illegal immigrants,” Heineman said in a press release. “I oppose providing taxpayer funding to vendors that perform or promote abortions.”

A Planned Parenthood of the Heartland official said Friday that the organization doesn't provide prenatal services at its Nebraska clinics, which are in Omaha and Lincoln.

Supporters of the bill, including some anti-abortion officials, said the charge was a last-minute attempt to derail an attempted override of the governor's veto. The Legislature's override vote on Legislative Bill 599 is scheduled for Wednesday.

“This is nothing more than an eleventh-hour attempt to scuttle LB 599,” said Julie Schmit-Albin, the executive director of Nebraska Right to Life, the leading anti-abortion organization in the state.

State Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln, the chief sponsor of the bill, said she was “disturbed” that the comment about Planned Parenthood wasn't raised until after the measure had progressed through three rounds of debate in the Legislature.

But Campbell said she did not think it would erode support for LB 599, to which 31 lawmakers gave final-round approval — one vote more than necessary to override the governor's veto.

“I think we are gaining support across the state,” Campbell said. “Certainly from the emails I got today, there is support for LB 599. Eighty-five percent were positive, and very strong in their support.”

The governor's veto came one day after five state lawmakers, led by Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood, chartered an airplane to conduct a series of press events designed to explain why they supported the bill. Other senators held pro-LB 599 press conferences Friday at hospitals in Omaha and Lincoln.

Such fly-arounds typically are reserved for the governor. The senators' trip was seen as another sign that the Legislature this year has increasingly exercised its power as a branch of government separate from the executive.

Supporters and opponents of LB 599 agree on one point: It is a difficult issue that pits the protection of unborn babies against the distribution of taxpayer benefits to illegal immigrants.

Heineman on Friday repeated his argument that taxes paid by “hardworking Nebraskans” should not be used for women who violated immigration laws, and that passage of LB 599 would make the state “a sanctuary” for illegal immigrants.

“This is wrong and fundamentally unfair,” Heineman said. “An illegal immigrant from any bordering city or town could establish residency in Nebraska in the morning and apply for benefits under LB 599 in the afternoon.”

While Heineman said it was not a “pro-life issue,” many supporters of the bill said that is the basis of their support.

“This bill fundamentally respects the life that is created,” said Omaha Sen. Jeremy Nord­quist, regardless of the mother's immigration status.

Nordquist was one of five Omaha lawmakers at the press event Friday at Creighton University Medical Center.

“The governor's actions haven't made him any new friends,” Nordquist said. “It's just made senators more resolute.”

Two years ago, the federal government informed Nebraska that it had to end its three-decade-long policy of providing taxpayer-financed prenatal care for low-income women, whether they were in the country legally or illegally.

The state was told that such care could be resumed by adding it to the state's child health-insurance program, but the state and Legislature declined.

That led to LB 599, which was introduced a year ago but wasn't debated until late last month. The bill would restore prenatal services to an estimated 1,110 illegal immigrants and about 40 women incarcerated in Nebraska prisons. It would cost about $560,000 a year in state funds and about $1.9 million in federal funds.

Heineman has said the money should be used for other state purposes, such as K-12 education.

Supporters of LB 599 say taxpayers will save money by heading off expensive neonatal intensive care bills for babies born with birth defects and other maladies that are prevented with proper prenatal care.

A survey of hospitals presented to lawmakers by proponents found one case alone that cost taxpayers more than $800,000.

Heineman, in his veto message, raised the concern that LB 599 had a constitutional defect because it sets up a program in which the federal government, rather than the state, sets the eligibility.

Becky Gould of the Lincoln-based Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest disagreed with that legal analysis.

She also said the governor's contention that Nebraska would become a “sanctuary state” is a “red herring.”

“That's not why people come to Nebraska. It's to work and be with family,” Gould said.

Women must be Nebraska residents to obtain prenatal care for their children, she said, adding that the babies would be the technical recipients of the care.

Gould said a woman would have to remain a resident to continue to get the benefits, which would be paid directly to doctors and clinics that provide prenatal care.

Jill June, president of Des Moines-based Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said her organization had “quietly” supported LB 599 though Planned Parenthood doesn't provide prenatal services in Nebraska. The organization does provide such services in other states, she said, adding that it was “curious” the governor was attacking her organization.

“Ninety-eight percent of what Planned Parenthood does is to prevent unintended pregnancy,” June said.

“You would think he would be in favor of what we're doing,” she added, if he opposes providing care for women who become pregnant.

Contact the writer:
402-473-9584, paul.hammel@owh.com

Contact the writer: Paul Hammel

paul.hammel@owh.com    |   402-473-9584    |  

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues and helps coordinate the same.

Crack ring's leaders join others in prison as part of Operation Purple Haze convictions
Saturday forecast opens window for gardening; Easter egg hunts look iffy on Sunday
Last day of 2014 Legislature: Praise, passage of a last few bills and more on mountain lions
A voice of experience: Ex-gang member has helped lead fight against Omaha violence
The thrill of the skill: Omaha hosts statewide contest for students of the trades
Intoxicated man with pellet gun climbs billboard's scaffold; is arrested
'The war is not over,' Chambers says, but legislative session about is
A recap of what got done — and what didn't — in the 2014 legislative session
PAC funded by Senate candidate Ben Sasse's great-uncle releases Shane Osborn attack ad
Teen killed at Gallagher Park was shot in head as he sat in SUV, friend who was wounded says
When judge asks, Nikko Jenkins says ‘I killed them’
New UNO center strengthens ties between campus, community
Threat found in Millard West bathroom deemed 'not credible'
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
Nebrasks health officials to advertise jobs via drive-thru
Coral Walker named Omaha police officer of the year
Sarah Palin, Mike Lee coming to Nebraska for Ben Sasse rally
Prescription drug drop-off is April 26
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Rather than doing $250K in repairs, owner who lives in lot behind 94-year-old house in Dundee razes it
NB 30th Street lane closed
State Patrol, Omaha police conduct vehicle inspections
Bernie Kanger formally promoted to Omaha fire chief
U.S. House incumbents have deeper pockets than their challengers
Nancy's Almanac, April 17, 2014: Trees save money
< >
Breaking Brad: At least my kid never got stuck inside a claw machine
We need a new rule in Lincoln. If your kid is discovered inside the claw machine at a bowling alley, you are forever barred from being nominated for "Mother of the Year."
Breaking Brad: How many MECA board members can we put in a luxury suite?
As a stunt at the Blue Man Group show, MECA board members are going to see how many people they can stuff into one luxury suite.
Kelly: Creighton's McDermotts put good faces on an Omaha tradition
A comical roast Wednesday night in Omaha brought fans of Creighton basketball laughter by the bucketful. This time it was McJokes, not McBuckets, that entertained the Bluejay crowd.
Kelly: New $24M UNO center embodies spirit of newlywed crash victim
Jessica Lutton Bedient was killed by a drunken driver at age 26 in 2010. Thursday, the widowed husband and other family members will gather with others at the University of Nebraska at Omaha to dedicate a permanent memorial to Jessica.
Breaking Brad: How much would you pay for a corn dog?
The Arizona Diamondbacks have a new concession item: a $25 corn dog. For that kind of money, it should be stuffed with Bitcoin.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »