Critics in the Unicameral charge that an amendment seeking to prohibit any public money from going to agencies promoting abortion targets Planned Parenthood.
Sen. Tony Fulton of Lincoln sponsors AM 1859 to another amendment to LB 540. He told fellow senators his proposal is straight forward.
“What my amendment does is further clarifies that we will have no public dollars going to any entity that promotes abortion,” according to Fulton.
Some senators saw that wording as targeting Planned Parenthood, fueled by a statement made during floor debate by Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha that he doesn’t think “one dime, one penny, one mill should go to Planned Parenthood.”
Sen. Brenda Council sought clarification from Fulton during floor debate.
“Is your objective the same as Sen. Krist, that you’re amendment is targeting Planned Parenthood?” Council asked Fulton.
“No. I understand that Planned Parenthood would probably be the largest entity that would fit under this category in AM 1859, but, frankly, it’s not just Planned Parenthood. It would be any entity that fits the description I’ve put forward here,” Fulton answered.
The debate took place as senators considered the underlying measure, LB 540, brought to the floor by the Health and Human Services Committee. The bill would instruct the Department of Health and Human Services to apply for a waiver from the federal government so Medicaid dollars could be used to pay for family planning.
Committee chairwoman, Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln, explained to senators that such waivers have been used in 29 states and that Minnesota has reported a significant drop in the number of abortions since it received the waiver. Campbell estimated that the state would save $4 for every $1 spent on family planning.
Under the proposal, the state would fund a 10% match, receiving 90% from the federal government. As many as 26,000 Nebraska women would be eligible for the services at $198 per recipient. Total cost of the program in FY 2014 is projected at $515,000 to the state, with the federal government chipping in $4.6 million.
During debate on the amendment, Sen. Amanda McGill of Lincoln defended Planned Parenthood as the only place some women can go for family planning.
“What perplexes me so much about this debate is that we spend so much time talking about the abortion issue and so little time on how to prevent unplanned pregnancy,” said McGill. “And preventing unplanned pregnancy is exactly what this bill is about.”
The legislature adjourned for the debate without voting on the amendment. Debate likely will resume tomorrow.
AUDIO: Legislative debate on LB 540, including debate on AM 1859 [32 min]