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What does it mean to be Pro-Life? Naturally, it means defending the unborn from abortion. It’s supporting policies that protect the innocent from murder. With those tenets in your pocket one can go through life blindly standing on the moral high ground. I, for example, supported the passage of Senator Watermeier’s Pro-Life LB46 which created the “Choose Life” license plate. The legislation is a great statement on Nebraska values, symbolic in nature and an easy vote for a Pro-Life politician to make while standing on high ground.
But life shows us that moral issues are not always clear. Pro-abortion individuals are usually against the death penalty, Pro-Life individuals usually are for it (my position); now we have some elbowing going on up on the high ground.
During debate on LB327, the $11 billion budget, there was an attempt to take $323 thousand of Federal Title X Family Planning grant funds from two Planned Parenthood locations in Omaha and Lincoln. Sounded to me like another easy symbolic vote for a Pro-Life politician, considering that Title X’s language actually states that no grants will be given to “programs where abortion is a method of family planning”.
The issue soon became cloudy when I was contacted by constituents about “People’s Family Health Services (PFHS)”, with clinics in North Platte and McCook, being the local entity that received Title X grants; as the legislation was written, it would have also put PFHS’s and 11 other family clinics’ (mostly rural clinics’) funding in jeopardy.
PFHS’s family planning budget for FY 2018 is $280,387. Of this amount, they received $109,026 in Title X funds. The rest of the funds must be made through insurance reimbursements, Medicaid reimbursements, patient payments, and donations.
I called the Director of PFHS to clarify their policy on recommending or referring clients to abortion clinics. They do not. I doubled checked with Health and Human Service’s annual statistics, they showed very low numbers of residents in Lincoln and surrounding counties who have had abortions; it was obvious that no one in our area was aiding or encouraging women to have abortions.
PFHS administers the Federal Women, Infants, and Children program (WIC) in 15 rural southwest Nebraska counties offering healthy food, prenatal care, breastfeeding support, and connects families to healthcare and substance abuse providers.
In the PFHS Director’s own words, the family planning side of their mission:
“Provides cervical cancer screening, breast and testicular screening, sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing and treatment, pregnancy testing, contraceptives, free HIV testing. Also provides education and counseling on reproductive and preventive health, STI/HIV risks, abstinence/postponing sexual involvement, and counseling on different contraceptive methods. Referrals are made to community partners for primary healthcare, Women’s Resource Center, health department, social services, WIC, prenatal care, among others… We have an APRN (Nurse Practitioner) on staff two days per week to provide services in North Platte.
“Family Planning promotes the well-being of families, responsible behavior, and healthy babies. It prevents unintended pregnancies through education including abstinence and contraceptive services. It allows planning and timing of pregnancies for healthy outcomes. We do NOT provide abortions here. A patient must seek their own resources for this service if they desire.
“No one is refused because of inability to pay. Cost is based on income and the number of people supported by that income. Charges are based on a sliding fee scale. Medicaid, insurance, and Every Woman Matters are accepted.
“So far in 2017, People’s Family Health Services has served 1035 unduplicated patients.”
We are blessed in the Lincoln County area to also have the fully funded by private donations Women’s Resource Center to help new parents become good parents. I believe services offered by the two non-profits are complementary.
I have told my fellow Pro-Life Legislators, create legislation that is not just symbolic and actually reduces abortions in Nebraska without harming women’s reproductive health care and infants’ wellbeing in rural Nebraska and I will co-sign the legislation.
This summer, I finally had a chance to visit the PHFS clinic in North Platte. When I tripped over infant toys on the lobby floor and saw children’s books scattered around, I immediately knew my vote was the right thing to do!
Contact Sen. Mike Groene: firstname.lastname@example.org or402-471-2729.