Neb. Gov. Heineman Vetoes Bill Restoring Prenatal Care Coverage for Undocumented Immigrants

April 16, 2012 — As expected, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman (R) on Friday vetoed legislation (LB 599) that would have restored prenatal care coverage for low-income, undocumented immigrants, Reuters reports. However, the measure could still become law if the state Legislature overrides the governor's veto in a vote set for Wednesday (Bailey, Reuters, 4/13).

In 2010, Nebraska ended Medicaid coverage of prenatal care for nearly 1,600 low-income women. The state later restored the coverage for legal residents and women who would not otherwise qualify for Medicaid.

The bill would have restored coverage for 1,100 undocumented immigrants and about 40 pregnant women in state correctional facilities, at a cost about $650,000 in state funds and $1.9 million in federal funding annually (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/12).

Reasons for Veto

In a press release on Friday, Heineman reiterated his opposition to "providing taxpayer benefits to illegal immigrants" and charged that enacting the bill would make Nebraska "a sanctuary" for undocumented immigrants.

His veto message also included a new accusation that funding through the bill could go to the state's Planned Parenthood affiliates. "I oppose providing taxpayer funding to vendors that perform or promote abortions," Heineman said.

Jill June, president of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said the group does not provide prenatal care services at its Nebraska locations. "Ninety-eight percent of what Planned Parenthood does is to prevent unintended pregnancy," she said, adding, "You would think [Heineman] would be in favor of what we're doing."

Some lawmakers and abortion-rights opponents said the governor's comment was meant to deter the Legislature from overriding his veto. Julie Schmit-Albin, executive director of Nebraska Right to Life, said, "This is nothing more than an eleventh-hour attempt to scuttle LB 599."

State Sen. Kathy Campbell, the bill's chief sponsor, said she was "disturbed" that Heineman's concern about Planned Parenthood was not mentioned before Friday. She said she does not think the governor's comment will erode support for the bill, which passed the Legislature with one more vote than the number needed to override a veto (Hammel, Omaha World-Herald, 4/14).