Birth control debate turns into abortion discussion

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February 5, 2012 - 6:00pm

The Legislature began debate Monday on a proposal supporters say would help prevent unwanted pregnancies, but opponents say would help fund abortions.

The proposal is by the Health and Human Services Committee. It would require the Department of Health and Human Services to apply for federal funds for family planning services. Families would be eligible at income levels up to 185 percent of the poverty line. That's just under $43,000 a year of income for a family of four with two children.

Lincoln Sen. Kathy Campbell, chairwoman of the committee, estimated that by preventing births that would otherwise be covered by Medicaid, it would save almost $12.5 million the first year, of which $5.4 million would be state dollars.

Campbell offered an amendment stating that no state funds would be used for abortions. But that didn't satisfy senators who objected to any funds going to Planned Parenthood.

Sen. Bob Krist

Among those objecting was Omaha Sen. Bob Krist, who said "I do not think that one dime, one penny, one mill should go to Planned Parenthood." Krist said people can say they're only funding rooms 1-20 in a 22-room complex. But, he added "in rooms 21 and 22 there are abortions, or abortion-related activities, going on."

Lincoln Sen. Tony Fulton offered an amendment to prevent any funds from going to an organization, such as Planned Parenthood, that performs elective abortions. That drew a response from Lincoln Sen. Amanda McGill, who defended the bill without the amendment.

Sen. Amanda McGill

"This is an opportunity to prevent unplanned pregnancies and to therefore prevent abortions. And many women do use Planned Parenthood just for health care. The majority use it just for health care," she said. McGill added that she could appreciate the pressure many of her colleagures were getting from churches and religious supporters. However, her voice rising with emotion, she declared "This is a chance to do something to prevent abortion, which is what all of you claim you want."

Lawmakers adjourned for the day without reaching a vote on the bill.

In other action, the Appropriations Committee distributed printed copies of its preliminary budget recommendations. They show the state will end the current two-year cycle next year with $63 million more than the required budget reserve. However in the following two-year period, a $343 million dollar shortfall is projected. (To see the committee's preliminary budget report, click here).

The largest single contributor to that shortfall is state school aid. It's projected to rise by more than 30 percent, due largely to the expiration of adjustments made to deal with last year's budget crunch.

Hearings on proposal to deal with school aid are scheduled for next week.




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