Busy Bees at the NCC
February 3, 2023
There’s an old saying about being “busy as a bee,” and it’s one that rings true for us at the Nebraska Catholic Conference.
This last week, the Nebraska Catholic Conference had three committee hearings on three NCC top tier legislative priorities: saving babies with heartbeats; ensuring low-income mothers who just gave birth have robust healthcare access; and providing educational scholarship opportunities for low-income students.
Because I am writing this column before the committee hearings have taken place, I can’t tell you how the committee hearings went but I can tell you a bit about two of the bills. I’ll leave the third one, school choice, for next week’s column.
Saving Babies with Heartbeats. The first bill with a hearing was Senator Joni Albrecht’s LB626, the Nebraska Heartbeat Act. The Nebraska Heartbeat Act would require that a doctor, before proceeding with any abortion, first perform an ultrasound in accordance with standard medical procedure to listen for a fetal heartbeat. If a heartbeat is present, an abortion may not be performed unless it is a case of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. LB626 could save up to 2,000 preborn babies from abortion.
LB626 had a hearing on Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 1st, in the Health and Human Services Committee. Your advocacy on this bill is critical. Senators on the HHS Committee need to hear from you.
Four Senators on the HHS Committee support saving babies with heartbeats: Sen. Ben Hansen (firstname.lastname@example.org), Sen. Brian Hardin (email@example.com), Sen. Merv Riepe (firstname.lastname@example.org), and Sen. Beau Ballard (email@example.com).
One Senator is on the fence: Senator Lynne Walz (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I highly encourage you to drop everything you’re doing right now and e-mail Sen. Walz and tell her why LB626 is important to you. Charitably encourage her to support the bill. Tell her why protecting babies and moms from abortion is an essential Nebraska value. If you have one, “share your heartbeat story” with Sen. Walz. Describe that first time you saw or heard your child’s heartbeat on an ultrasound. These stories reveal the humanity of the unborn child and remind us that a heartbeat is a universal sign of life!
As well, contact the four supporting Senators above and send them a brief thank you note.
If you can’t take time to write Sen. Walz to help save the lives of preborn babies, it’s hard to fathom what you would take you time for. If that sounds a bit like Catholic guilt, I’ll own it; but I mostly say this to challenge you to action on this most fundamental of human rights issues: the right to life!
Healthcare Access for Low-Income Mothers. The second bill is Sen. Anna Wishart’s LB419, which extends Medicaid health care coverage to low-income mothers who are postpartum. Currently, Nebraska law only allows this postpartum coverage for 60 days. However, federal law now permits states to extend this coverage for up to twelve months postpartum. Over 30 states (both “red” and “blue” states) have adopted this extended healthcare coverage for postpartum moms, and Nebraska would do well to follow suit. Sen. Wishart’s bill also has a great list of bipartisan co-sponsors.
The health of both a mother and her dependent children depends on adequate and accessible medical care. A mother who meets Medicaid’s postpartum eligibility requirements may not otherwise have this access. As we know, mothers with low income have a special need and special difficulty in obtaining good healthcare.
This assistance would help both mom and baby during an important time in her life and the life of the newborn. Studies suggest that the health of mothers is particularly vulnerable in the first year after giving birth, and the danger is particularly high when a mother, who is responsible for taking care of her child as well as herself, has little or no means of support from family or other social institutions.
The NCC finds it particularly important to make sure we are helping moms and babies both before birth as well as after birth. We must do this not only in our own private charitable efforts, but we must also come together as a state to ensure these needs are met.
This bill was also heard by the HHS Committee. I urge you to contact all the Senators listed above who belong to the Committee. Make sure they know, as a pro-lifer, that you “love them both!”
God bless your work!
Tom Venzor is executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference. Email him at email@example.com.