May 4th, 2017 – In a dramatic turn of events at the State Capitol in Lincoln yesterday, the Legislature repealed pro-life language from a budget proposal that would have shifted taxpayer dollars away from abortion clinics and toward comprehensive healthcare centers.
In the hours leading up to the second round of debate, Senator John Stinner of Gering, Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, filed an amendment to strike the budget language requiring Title X family-planning funds to be prioritized to comprehensive care clinics, rather than to abortion clinics. He argued that the language should be part of a stand-alone bill rather than in the budget.
A number of senators agreed – including Speaker Jim Scheer, who decided to have the Legislature consider the Stinner Amendment first, before the Legislature could consider a compromise amendment (AM 1255) that would have maintained the pro-life language while ensuring continued funding for rural clinics.
Thanks to your outreach and your prayers, Sen. Stinner’s unfriendly amendment actually failed on its first vote, 23 to 20 – just two votes shy of the necessary 25-vote threshold. Click here to see how our senators voted.
But it wasn’t over yet.
Instead, Senator Kate Bolz of Lincoln switched her vote from “Yes” to “Not Voting” and filed a “motion to reconsider.” This allowed more time to try to pick off the final two votes.
And indeed they did. As night fell upon the Capitol, one pro-Stinner-Amendment-senator who had been absent for the earlier vote suddenly returned in the nick of time. And then Senator Mike Groene of North Platte announced that he would switch his vote, thus promising to support the Stinner Amendment to eliminate the pro-life language.
Shortly afterward – as pro-life senators attempted to privately talk it through with Senator Groene – another unfriendly senator requested that debate cease and a vote be taken. When the dust settled, the Stinner Amendment passed by a bare majority of votes, 25-19, and the Nebraska Legislature had fully restored taxpayer funding for abortion clinics in Nebraska.
Click here to see how each senator voted.
This turn of events had the effect of mooting the “Craighead Compromise” (AM 1255) that would have maintained the pro-life language while preserving funding for rural clinics. Nonetheless, the Legislature took a vote on that amendment, and a number of pro-life senators gave it their support. See that vote count here.
Please reach out to your senator and thank them if they stood up for Life. Your voice makes all the difference. We will have more information and updates soon.
Title X Funding Issue Sparks Controversy; Still Up for Grabs
May 2nd, 2017 -- The Nebraska Legislature is in the midst of a heated battle to reprioritize federal Title X funds to clinics that provide comprehensive health services, rather than to those that profit from abortion.
The provision is part of the Nebraska Legislature’s proposed budget (LB 327) for the upcoming biennium, and is intended to increase access to a maximum array of health care services. The language at issue would therefore prioritize the distribution of Title X funds to “federally qualified health centers” and other facilities that provide comprehensive primary care services, ensuring that women seeking family planning services also have on-site access to mammograms, prenatal care, and a host of other essential health benefits.
“Title X” is a federal program that provides taxpayer dollars for family planning services, cervical cancer screening, and STD testing. In Nebraska, the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is the sole direct grantee of Title X funds, which amount to more than $1.5 million annually. DHHS then distributes those funds to a number of sub-recipients across the state. Historically, clinics that perform abortions, like Planned Parenthood, have received the most lucrative amount of funds.
The Title X reprioritization became the central focus of debate during the Legislature’s first-round consideration of the budget last week. After a failed attempt by Senator Paul Schumacher of Columbus to remove the language, the ever-predictable Senator Ernie Chambers decided to filibuster and hold the entire budget hostage until the Title X provision was removed.
As the debate veered late into the night, a number of previously supportive senators began to reconsider their vote. They expressed concern that the provision would ultimately harm non-abortion clinics that provide family planning services in communities such as Tecumseh, Grand Island, and North Platte.
Thankfully, Senator Chambers’ filibuster forced the Legislature to take an up-or-down vote on the budget as proposed, without allowing the Legislature to vote on additional antagonistic amendments.
In reality, the proposed language would still allow any clinic in Nebraska to apply for Title X funds. It would merely prioritize clinics that provide comprehensive services, without necessarily excluding anyone else. Still, the Nebraska Catholic Conference has helped craft an amendment clarifying that no community, rural or otherwise, would lose access to services.
The Legislature will begin the second round of debate this Wednesday (May 3rd). A number of senators remain undecided. Your voice and your prayers will be the deciding factor.
Make sure you are signed up to our CANN Network! If you already are, thank you for your advocacy and participation! Keep a look out for upcoming action alerts seeking your help to encourage your senator to stand up for life and to support comprehensive health care for all.
Posted on Tue, May 2, 2017
by Tom Venzor