Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nebraska to Mexican babies: Se muere

Long ago, Nebraska advertised itself as "the White Spot of the Nation," meaning the state had neither a sales tax nor an income tax.

Now, thanks to "pro-life" Gov. Dave Heineman, the state just might have to revive that slogan -- just with a somewhat different meaning.

Like, "if you're a white spot on an ultrasound," you, as a fetus, are quite all right. But if you're brown -- as in Mexican -- we don't want your kind sticking around.

That's because in Nebraska, we are so angry about illegal immigration, that ostensibly "pro-life" politicians want to punish undocumented mothers-to-be soooooo badly -- and thus reap the resulting electoral windfall -- they'd rather see brown babies dead . . . aborted . . . than be born American.

Abortions, you see, are easy. Prenatal care for the poor is not.

TRAFFICKING in deadly spite is a big part these days of what it is to be Dave Heineman: Nebraska's "white-to-life" governor. That's the practical reality, the moral reality and the political reality of at least 19 state senators standing behind (or at least not standing up to) the Republican governor's death-dealing foolishness.

Heineman and his toadies can argue motivations, but the practical reality is clear. Somehow, I don't think the political considerations would be quite so acute if Nebraska were facing being "overrun" by a wave of Scandinavian illegals. Which it isn't. This "problem" is colored brown.

Nebraska's political establishment wants little brown babies to pay for the migrational sins of their mothers so badly that it will deny them state-sponsored prenatal care even if private donors are picking up a substantial portion of the bill. That's the upshot of this
Associated Press story tonight:
Opposition to taxpayer benefits for illegal immigrants appears to have trumped anti-abortion sentiments in Nebraska, likely ending an unusual collision of the two explosive political issues.

After meeting with Gov. Dave Heineman on Wednesday night, a lawmaker said the governor opposed a compromise that would continue providing state-funded prenatal care to illegal immigrants in Nebraska. Supporters of the compromise - which included the use of money from private donors - said they don't have enough votes this year to override a Heineman veto and may not have had the votes even without the governor's outright opposition.

"The chances are very slim right now," said Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha after the meeting with Heineman. Ashford crafted the proposal, which hinged on Omaha donors pitching in about $3 million this year, so women could continue receiving state-funded prenatal care. "We took a stab at it but it's clear options now are very, very limited."

Heineman characterized the meeting as "respectful and straightforward" in a statement Wednesday night.

"I have repeatedly said that I support prenatal care for legal residents," he said. "I do not support providing state-funded benefits for illegal individuals."

Lawmakers had faced a dilemma for weeks: Was it more important to care for pregnant women and their unborn children, or prevent illegal immigrants from getting taxpayer-funded benefits?

Until early this month, Nebraska had the nation's only Medicaid policy that allowed unborn children to qualify. That meant women who weren't eligible for the government-run insurance program on their own - such as illegal immigrants - got Medicaid-covered prenatal care because their unborn children qualified.

After federal officials told Nebraska it was breaking Medicaid rules, the state tried to come up with a substitute. That effort died more than a week ago.

But reports from doctors of several women saying they will have abortions instead because they couldn't afford prenatal care reignited the issue. Until Wednesday night, there appeared to be a chance lawmakers would formally consider a proposal.


Heineman, meanwhile, has tried to stay out of the fray. Running for re-election, the Republican quietly announced his opposition to state-funded prenatal care for illegal immigrants last month in a letter to a legislative committee.

State officials say about 870 illegal immigrants and 750 legal residents including citizens lost Medicaid coverage this month when Nebraska dumped its two-decade-old Medicaid policy. More than 4,700 legal residents once considered at risk of losing coverage got to keep it because state officials found they qualified under different provisions of Medicaid.

The reports of more women seeking abortions - which some lawmakers are openly skeptical of - spurred a renewed push to create a separate, non-Medicaid program under which illegal immigrants and some legal residents would get state- and federal-funded prenatal care. Now very unlikely to be formed, it would have been created under the federal Children's Health Insurance Program, which allows unborn children to qualify for federal- and state-funded care.
DESPITE ENACTMENT this week of a landmark health-care reform law, we still live in a country -- and especially a state -- where it's much cheaper to eradicate your fetus than it is to deliver a healthy baby boy or girl. And just enough of Nebraska's "pro-life" politicians, led by the state's "pro-life" governor, are just fine with that.

Here in "the White Spot of the Nation."

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