Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Is the Fetus, In Fact, a "Child?" Yes, Says Nebraska!

An editorial in todays New York Times provides a fascinating story concerning "the strange road" taken by the Legislature of the State of Nebraska.  The Legislature has deemed a fetus eligible for the State Children's Health Insurance Program!  And, even more unusual, is the fact that this bill is supported not only by Nebraska Right to Life and the Nebraska Catholic Conference, but by Planned Parenthood!

How did this strange partnership occur?  Turns out the Governor of Nebraska had vetoed a bill intended to provide free pre-natal care to undocumented immigrants.  The Governor considered the bill a violation of extant immigration laws and referred to the law as "misguided, misplaced and inappropriate."  The Legislature subsequently ruled that "unborn children do not have immigration status and therefore are not within the scope" of laws affecting "illegal" immigrants, and consequently have the same rights to medical care (pre-natal) as do "born" children (post-natal).  The program is expected to cost Nebraskans $2.5 million a year

Nebraska has, in effect, now officially declared a fetus eligible for medical insurance coverage, extending all the rights of "born" children to "unborn children."  This brings the status of abortion into question in Nebraska.  Nebraska's abortion laws allow abortions only "before viability or if woman is victim of abuse or neglect or if the M.D. has certification in writing that the continued pregnancy is a threat to woman's life, health."

Will a fetus "before viability" be entitled to medical coverage in Nebraska?  If so, the "non-viable" fetus clearly has a new legal status granting him certain rights,  raising the even larger issue as to whether an abortion on such a fetus could ever be considered.  If, on the other hand, the "before viability" fetus is not eligible for this medical entitlement, then may his "illegal" mother still be provided with free pre-natal care, or must she wait until her fetus attains viability?

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