Lawsuit filed over access to prenatal care

Omaha, NE – An advocacy group wants prenatal care restored to 1,500 Nebraska women who lost those services in March.

The Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest filed the lawsuit Thursday in Lancaster County on behalf of a 38-year-old woman who is eight months pregnant. The class-action suit represents all 1,500 women who lost prenatal care March 1.

Nebraska Appleseed Executive Director Becky Gould says the Department of Health and Human Services didn't have the authority to end prenatal care for those women. "HHS is only allowed to set policy when they've been directed by the Legislature to do that," Gould says. "And in this case, there's a statute that lays out who is eligible for medical assistance in Nebraska."

Governor Dave Heineman argued earlier this year that pregnant illegal immigrants shouldn't receive state and federally-funded prenatal care. The 38-year-old woman is an immigrant with legal status. Gould says the 1,500 women included in the lawsuit are both legal and illegal immigrants. Originally, 6,000 women lost access to prenatal care. Gould says many of those women were able to continue care through other programs.

The Nebraska Attorney General's office is representing HHS in the lawsuit. Spokeswoman Shannon Kingery says the office has no comment as the case is in review.