When the Nebraska Legislature's Appropriations Committee writes its budget bill this session, it will not include a provision related to Title X funding of family planning clinics that perform or refer patients for abortions.

The majority of the committee voted against a motion Tuesday to include the language Gov. Pete Ricketts put into his budget proposal.

Ricketts responded Tuesday night that given what is happening in other states with legislation to loosen restrictions on late-term abortions, "the decision to strip the pro-life language out of this year's budget is especially appalling." 

Last year, Ricketts' Title X provision's inclusion brought about a big fight on the floor of the Legislature that led to hours of negotiation on how to word the provision to save federal funding for family planning and reproductive services in Nebraska clinics.

Although Title X dollars already could not be spent on abortion, it was believed the provision would cut off federal reproductive health care funding to Planned Parenthood and possibly other federally qualified health centers.

Ricketts said in a statement that less than a year ago, the Legislature stood with Nebraskans and voted for a "prolife" budget.

"I urge the committee to reconsider this initial vote, because how the state spends taxpayer dollars has deep implications for the dignity of human life and Nebraska's core values," he said. 

Tuesday, as the Appropriations Committee was wrapping up work on the preliminary budget it will offer next week, chairman John Stinner told the committee it would have to affirmatively vote to put the language into the bill if members wanted it to be there this year. 

The budget, he said, was going to be contentious enough with Medicaid expansion, increases to the property tax credit fund and a possible reduction in the revenue projections from the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board coming at the end of this month.

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He would rather the debates this session be about the budget, and not about a social policy, he said. He would prefer that the content of the Title X provision be put into a bill and debated that way. It's something, Stinner said, that should be in a permanent statute and not continually coming up for debate in the budget. 

Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks introduced a bill (LB629) this session that would permit Title X funds only for organizations licensed under the Health Care Facilities Licensure Act, which makes the organization subject to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) requirements.

"There are people, we are understanding, that are now getting Title X dollars that aren't subject to the HIPAA confidentiality requirements," Pansing Brooks said.  

While the bill does not address the provision, it's one that the Health and Human Services Committee could use to discuss the provision, Lincoln Sen. Anna Wishart said at Tuesday's Appropriations Committee executive session. 

Last year's compromise on the Ricketts' provision allows clinics to refer patients for abortion in emergency situations, in which a physician determines a pregnancy would cause death or serious impairment of the woman's physical function, and thus allows most of the Title X clinics to continue providing essential reproductive services to low-income men and women.

Neutral, factual, nondirective information about prenatal care, delivery and pregnancy termination would not constitute a referral for abortion.

Sen. Robert Clements of Elmwood made the Appropriations Committee motion Tuesday to include the provision in the budget and was joined by Omaha Sen. Mike McDonnell and Sen. Myron Dorn of Adams in support of it.

Voting against putting the provision into the budget document were Stinner, Wishart and Sens. Robert Hilkemann and Tony Vargas of Omaha, and Kate Bolz of Lincoln. Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard was absent. 

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSLegislature.


State government reporter

JoAnne Young covers state government, including the Legislature and state agencies, and the people they serve.

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