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Nebraska Right to Life OKs Dave Heineman, abandons Ben Nelson
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Nebraska Right to Life OKs Dave Heineman, abandons Ben Nelson

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Nebraska Right to Life said Wednesday it will endorse Republican Gov. Dave Heineman's re-election bid -- despite his opposition to prenatal health care legislation.

But Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson's climactic vote for health care reform legislation "without adequate abortion language" precludes him from ever receiving the organization's endorsement again, the group said.

"NRL has always taken into consideration an elected official's entire record when making endorsements," said political action committee director Denise Ashby.

But, she said, "we also weigh the gravity of various issues and actions."

Nelson previously had the group's support because of his pro-life record.

Nebraska Right to Life, with its growing database of 67,000 identified pro-life households, always has been a vital entry point to Republican support for Nelson.

Heineman opposed legislation that would have funded prenatal health care for low-income women because the bill included illegal immigrants.

Nebraska Right to Life supported the bill as pro-life legislation rather than viewing it as an immigration issue.

"We weighed that issue with the rest of (Heineman's) record," Ashby said.

Heineman's support for this year's anti-abortion legislation -- combined with his previous pro-life legislative record -- "determined our on-going support of the governor with a sole endorsement," Ashby said.

The group's policy provides sole endorsement for pro-life incumbents.

Heineman signed a first-in-the-nation ban on abortions beginning at the 20th week past conception and approved legislation requiring more screening and counseling procedures prior to abortion.

Heineman is seeking re-election this year.

Nelson faces re-election in 2012.

Nebraska Right to Life said its "non-partisan status" was reaffirmed with its endorsement of some pro-life Democrats who are seeking seats in the Legislature.

"To hold pro-life Dems in the state Legislature accountable for the actions of members of their party at the federal level would be to hold them to a higher standard than Republicans in the Legislature," Ashby said.

In other races, the group endorsed the re-election of Republican Reps. Jeff Fortenberry, Lee Terry and Adrian Smith.

And all three candidates in the hotly contested race for the Republican nomination for state treasurer -- Tony Fulton, Tom Nesbitt and Don Stenberg -- won endorsements.

Reach Don Walton at 473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

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In the wake of Nebraska Right to Life's sudden rupture with Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson over abortion funding language in the Senate's health care reform bill, Executive Director Julie Schmit-Albin says the pressure is growing.

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