Nebraska Right to Life sent a letter Monday to six senators who have provided leadership on pro-life bills in the past but who now have come to a divide with the powerful pro-life organization on a bill that would restore prenatal care for babies with undocumented mothers.
Gov. Dave Heineman has promised to veto the bill (LB599), which is expected to get its final reading Wednesday. It provides prenatal coverage to low-income women, many of them undocumented, who lost Medicaid coverage for prenatal care in 2010.
In an open letter, Right to Life executive director Julie Schmit-Albin told Sens. Tony Fulton, Beau McCoy, Pete Pirsch, Lydia Brasch, Chris Langemeier and Dave Bloomfield -- all of whom have received the organization's endorsement in past or present elections -- this: "It is sad and alarming that we have come to this point where some of the major pro-life leaders in the Legislature are choosing to put the illegal immigration issue and who pays for what, over the life and health of babies in the womb."
It is likely, she told them, that past legislative transcripts would show comments from all of them about the "necessity of protecting innocent human life from fertilization on."
Other senators who have identified themselves as pro-life, and who have voted in favor of the bill in two rounds of debate, also may be conflicted over illegal immigration issues, she said.
"(But) they clearly put the life and health of all unborn children ahead of the immigration issue."
When, she asked, did it become important to pick and choose which babies deserve prenatal care and which don't, by virtue of the womb in which they reside?
That is not a consistent pro-life approach, she told them, and asked why they had made their choice.
For those term-limiting out of the Legislature, is it because they won't have to answer to pro-life constituents, she asked. Is it because the organization has not specifically weighed the prenatal issue in endorsements (just as it never weighed a number of other pro-life bills)?
Or because they are relying on past pro-life records to ensure future endorsements, but fear damage that could come in future races on their illegal immigration stand?
Two of the senators -- Fulton and Brasch -- said they voted no on the bill not because of political considerations, but because of their personal experiences.
"There's a disagreement on this, clearly," Fulton said. "I heard about it all weekend from lots of pro-life people."
Fulton said he has family in the Philippines who live in poverty and would like to come to the United States, but who can't afford to emigrate and won't sneak into the country.
"People who are in favor of (LB)599, unconsciously anyway, are saying, 'Hey, we'll provide care for these unborn kids (who are here) but, Fulton, you and your family, we won't provide it for them,'" he said.
Brasch is an immigrant's baby, she said. Her parents came to the United States legally from the Ukraine in 1950, and she was born in 1953. They lived for a time in poverty.
"They came here for freedom, not for what is free," she said.
At Franciscan Care Services in West Point, no one is turned away from prenatal care, but they are sent a bill, she said. There is an obligation to pay.
Churches, good Samaritans, neighbors, can help pregnant women who are in need, she said.
"I'm not going to change my vote," she said, "especially because of my personal life situation. This is who I am."
Fulton said he has considered and reconsidered the merits of both sides of the debate since the first vote on the bill.
"I'll reconsider it all the way up until we take our final vote," he said, which could be an attempt at an override of the governor's promised veto.