Debate over family planning turns to abortion

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February 7th, 2012

Lincoln, NE – The Legislature began debate Monday on a proposal supporters say would help prevent unwanted pregnancies, but opponents say would help fund abortions.

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The proposal is by the Health and Human Services Committee. It would require the Department of Health and Human Services to expand coverage of family planning services, such as contraception, by applying for federal funds.

Sen. McGill defended the committee's proposal, calling it a "chance to do something to prevent abortion." (Photo courtesy Nebraska Legislature)

The coverage would expand to include families at income levels up to 185 percent of the poverty line. That amounts to just under $43,000 a year of income for a family of four with two children.

Lincoln Sen. Kathy Campbell, chairwoman of the committee, said expanding access to family planning services would help prevent unwanted births, and would save almost $12.5 million the first year, of which $5.4 million would be state dollars.

But the bill raised concerns among some senators that the expansion would indirectly help fund abortions. Campbell offered an amendment providing that no state funds would be used for abortions. But that didn’t satisfy senators who objected to any funds going to organizations like Planned Parenthood that performs abortions in addition to providing women’s healthcare services. Among them was Omaha Sen. Bob Krist.

“I do not think that one dime, one penny, one mill should go to Planned Parenthood,” Krist said. “The reason for that is that I don’t believe that you can say, even though you give money to a particular entity, that you’re only funding rooms 1-20 in a 22-room complex. Because in rooms 21 and 22 there are abortions, or abortion-related activities, going on.”

Lincoln Sen. Tony Fulton offered an amendment to prevent any funds from going to an organization that performs elective abortions. That drew a strong response from Lincoln Sen. Amanda McGill, who defended the bill without the amendment.

“This is an opportunity to prevent unplanned pregnancies and to therefore prevent abortions,” McGill said. “And many women do use Planned Parenthood just for health care. The majority use it just for health care. And I can appreciate the pressure many of you are getting from your churches, your religions bases. And honestly I don’t expect you be with me on this because of the political pressure. But this is a chance to do something to prevent abortion, which is what all of you claim you want.”

Lawmakers adjourned for the day without reaching a vote on the bill.

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