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State budget helps ensure federal funds don’t support abortion

The state budget now helps ensure that no federal funds support abortions in Nebraska.
 
“The Nebraska Legislature made the right decision today to pass the state budget bill with the common sense, pro-life Title X provision intact,” said Tom Venzor, executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference (NCC).
 
The provision bans federal Title X funds from organizations or clinics that provide or refer for abortions. After contentious negotiations among legislators, a March 29 amendment cleared the way for final debate and lawmakers passing the budget 38-6 April 3.
 
The amendment allows clinics to make abortion referrals only in emergencies and supply clients only with neutral, factual, non-directive information about options, including pregnancy termination. 
 
Title X is a federal grant program that provides preventive health services, such as annual well-woman exams, STD testing and treatment, and HPV testing and vaccinations, to low-income people. It also includes problematic services such as contraception, which the church teaches is morally wrong.
 
The budget provision requires that agencies wanting to receive the funds must legally, physically and financially separate their abortion-related services from other services.
 
Opponents of the Title X budget provision warned that services to low-income people, especially in rural areas, could be jeopardized, but the provision’s impact on clinics throughout the state will be minimal, said Marion Miner, NCC associate director for pro-life and family.
 
“We’ve found that statewide, out of 42 clinics receiving Title X funds, few clinics actually refer for abortion,” he said. 
 
Planned Parenthood clinics in Omaha and Lincoln are the only ones offering abortion.
 
Although the emergency abortion exception potentially could create a loophole, the narrow definition of emergency abortion in state law and reporting requirements for doctors should help prevent abuse, Miner said.
 
“Emergency is defined as a situation where, in the doctor’s good faith and judgment, a delay would result in the death of the mother or create a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function,” he said. 
 
Doctors and clinics would have to document and justify any referral they make, Miner said. 
 
“If they give patients a packet of information about all of their options, including adoption, pre-natal care, foster care, they could also provide information about abortion, and it would not constitute a referral,” he said. 
 
“We would rather have not had any exceptions, but the result is still a major accomplishment,” Miner said.
 
Federal law always has required that Title X funds not support abortions, he said.
 
“Under the Obama administration, there was no willingness to enforce the requirement. But the Trump administration has been publicly upfront about its willingness to be vigilant about enforcement.”
 
In testimony before the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee Feb. 5, Creighton University Law Professor Collin Mangrum explained that the provision promotes compliance with the original intent of the Title X program. 
 
“The language is actually clarifying and validating what Congress originally did and what they initially set up,” he told the committee. “It doesn’t change any outcome. All it does, it makes it more accurate and reflective of the original intent.” 
 
Venzor said, “Most Americans and Nebraskans generally agree: no taxpayer dollars should subsidize the killing of unborn, innocent life. Upholding that will and defending life is vital to the common good of our state.”

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