Life is precious. It is something that we can never take for granted. From our country’s earliest days, our Founding Fathers recognized life as the first right in the Declaration of Independence. As Americans, we have an obligation to step up and protect life. The right to life comes with responsibilities to ourselves and to others. Nebraskans across our state recognize these duties by standing up for the unborn, caring for the elderly, and getting involved in their communities among many other actions.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I joined thousands of pro-life Nebraskans at the State Capitol for the 44th Annual Walk for Life. This event has happened annually since Roe v. Wade overturned state laws protecting unborn life in 1973. Nebraskans from all walks of life came together for this important event highlighting our state’s pro-life values.

On the Capitol steps, numerous elected leaders spoke about the great work that has been going on at the State Capitol and in Washington, D.C. to promote our pro-life values. State Senator Dan Watermeier talked about the new “Choose Life” license plate that he worked with Senators to bring to my desk. U.S. Senator Deb Fischer touted the continued efforts to get the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act passed. U.S. Senator Ben Sasse noted the numerous young people who attended the rally and are helping shape the future of the pro-life movement.

During the event, Lt. Governor Foley and I highlighted a new pro-life initiative currently under consideration by the Unicameral. Right now, healthcare providers that also perform abortions are receiving federal funding passed through the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. This funding comes from Title X, or reproductive healthcare grants, from the federal government and is distributed by the states. Last year, President Trump signed H.J. Res. 43 into law to allow states far greater flexibility in the distribution of Title X funding than already exists under federal law.

 In my budget recommendation, I am proposing to use this new flexibility and revise the distribution of federal Title X healthcare funding to prevent the use of taxpayer dollars for abortions. Nebraska is a pro-life state, and the state’s budget should reflect those values. We already have language in our budget to ensure other funds do not get spent on abortions. Our proposal takes a logical next step: If you provide abortion services or refer or provide directive counsel for abortions, you cannot receive Title X funding. This helps ensure taxpayer dollars will not subsidize abortions directly or indirectly. Facilities that focus on providing life-giving healthcare, not abortion services, should receive our Title X tax dollars.

 Some have tried to argue that changing the distribution could cause people to lose access to healthcare. This is simply not true. Under my budget recommendation, every community currently receiving funds would continue to be eligible for funding. Nebraska currently has over 40 Title X provider sites. The language recommended in the budget does not prohibit any provider from applying and receiving Title X funding as long as they do not provide abortion services or refer or provide directive counseling for abortions. If an organization has been providing abortions or related services, they can take steps to ensure that the entity providing Title X services is totally separate.

 While this may seem to be a commonsense recommendation, there are still several steps before it can be finalized. The proposal now goes before the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee for consideration. Senators will vote on the language in committee and then advance their recommendation for consideration by the full Legislature. If you want to see the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee and the full Legislature adopt these pro-life reforms, I hope you will take the time to contact your State Senator. It is now up to them to ensure that the budget that reaches my desk reflects our pro-life values. Contact information for all State Senators can be found at www.NebraskaLegislature.gov.

 This is just one way that we are working to promote a culture of life here in Nebraska. If you have ideas on how Nebraska can better support a culture of life, please contact my office.

Gov. Pete Ricketts can be contacted at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or 402-471-2244.

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