In Startling Move of Consistency, Nebraska Legislature Overrides Governor’s Veto of Prenatal Care for Undocumented Women

The Nebraska Legislature has been embroiled in a conservative controversy. The issue at hand has been pre-natal care for immigrant women. The angels and devils sitting on the shoulders and whispering in the ears of the GOP caucus in that state have been tugging their politicians back and forth over the issue, while Nebraskans have waited to see whether hatred for “illegals” would prove more powerful than “saving babies.” 

Yesterday, baby-saving won. From the LA Times:

On the final day of the state’s legislative session Wednesday, lawmakers in the single-chamber, nonpartisan house overrode the governor’s veto of a prenatal health bill for illegal immigrants in a narrow 30-16 vote with three present but not voting.

Usually, “baby-saving” is code for “woman-hating”, but this veto override provided a rare moment of consistency within the anti-choice political tide within that state since they couldn’t really hide he irony of denying pre-natal care to women in need.

Nonetheless this is but a partial victory.  Women, and most particularly immigrant women, have served as political punching bags of late at the state and federal levels. And the prospect of protections for the health and rights of undocumented immigrant women provided fodder to Republicans opposing reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.  

The National Latina Institute provides a perfect analysis of why this victory should be coupled with rightful criticism: 

“We applaud the restoration of funding for pregnancy-related care,” said González-Rojas, “But the language used in this legislation is a dangerous development for immigrant women’s health and human dignity.”

Immigrant women currently face numerous barriers to accessing the care that they need, and these barriers lead to disproportionate negative health outcomes that affect entire families. Immigrant women deserve to access prenatal care as a matter of basic human rights and dignity, and their characterization in the debate surrounding the Nebraska legislation as mere vessels is inhumane and deeply disturbing. NLIRH will continue to work with lawmakers to craft legislation that rightly places women at the center of health policy, because we know that women are often the backbone of our families and communities.

As the GOP’s pro-life hypocrisy continues to play out in red state politics, it will be interesting to see how much shifting of political positions will be required to reconcile stances taken surrounding women’s health and wellbeing.  It will also be important for women’s health advocates to view these shifts with a cautious eye. Women should not merely accept what scraps of justice are tossed under the table to them without vetting the implications within the full spectrum of their health care needs and the overall impact on their overall wellbeing. And they should not shirk from demanding every ounce of justice that is due. 

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