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Title X: An Ideological Debate in Nebraska's Budget

Gov. Pete Ricketts is being accused of partisan politics for using the state budget to attempt to restrict Title X funding to some health clinics. (Matt Johnson/Flickr)
Gov. Pete Ricketts is being accused of partisan politics for using the state budget to attempt to restrict Title X funding to some health clinics. (Matt Johnson/Flickr)
March 13, 2018

LINCOLN, Neb. – A battle over Title X funding is front and center at the statehouse today. Senators will discuss Gov. Pete Ricketts' mainline budget provision that would restrict funding to Title X clinics that offer abortion-related services, along with other health care.

As a former senator and longtime member of the Appropriations Committee, ACLU Executive Director Danielle Conrad says crafting a balanced budget is hard enough without injecting an unnecessary ideological fight into the debate.

"Women and men who rely on the Title X program, their health and wellbeing [are] at risk by putting forward this really misguided language that can close clinics in our state," she warns. "And it's just so incredibly disappointing and troubling that our governor and his allies would risk the state budget for their own political gain."

Conrad says it could affect 40 clinics and likely result in closures. She notes it offers no budgetary savings for the state and adds that under federal regulations, abortion services are already excluded from Title X funds.

Julie Reno, who served as the state's Title X program manager before retiring, explains replacing closed clinics is challenging given the arduous Title X application process. She recalls asking a southeastern Nebraska agency to offer services in Lincoln when three health-care providers there refused to apply for Title X funds.

"If there are these many challenges in Lincoln, which has a lot of options, I just don't know what's going to happen if the whole state doesn't have Title X available," Reno says.

CEO of OneWorld Community Health Clinics, Andrea Skolkin, says closing Title X clinics would mean gaps in care for many low-income Nebraskans and shift the patient load to federally-qualified health centers.

"We would need increased capacity to do that, either in a number of providers but also, physical space," Skolkin explains. "There would be potentially waits, because even now, sometimes we don't have an appointment available."

Conrad adds that a similar attempt in last year's budget debate was successfully filibustered.

"The Legislature was very clear that these kinds issues should be better dealt with by the Judiciary Committee or the Health and Human Services Committee as part of a stand-alone, substantive proposal; that it was wrong to put these forward as part of budget trickery," Conrad notes.

Regarding the provision, the governor said "Nebraska is a pro-life state, so our budget should reflect our values," and noted it would only stop abortion providers from receiving taxpayer funds through Title X.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - NE