Kansas Legislators Want to Cover Unborn Children in CHIP Program
by Paul Nowak
February 24, 2004
Topeka, KS (LifeNews.com) — Kansas legislators are looking to make their state the seventh to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to include unborn children and their mothers in order to ensure proper prenatal care is made more available. Pro-abortion forces, however, are attacking the bill saying it is too centered on unborn children.
The CHIP program, which offers medical insurance to children of low-income families, can now be applied to unborn children following the Bush Administration’s September 2002 provision allowing states to make the change.
Under the expansion, which has been adopted by Illinois, Rhode Island, Michigan, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Washington, unborn children and their mothers can get proper prenatal care, even when their income would otherwise exclude the mother. The maximum income to qualify for CHIP is higher than the maximum for Medicaid.
"A pregnant woman with an annual income of $26,680 for a family of 3 becomes ineligible if her household is reduced by one member," said Kathy Ostrowski, Legislative Director of Kansans for Life, in her testimony to the House Insurance Committee on Thursday. "At that point, she is ineligible for prenatal care from Medicaid."
Ostrowski argued that low-income pregnant women who are not given government assistance with health care costs often feel financially driven to abortions, which dramatically increase the chances of premature births and complications such as cerebral palsy in later pregnancies.
With medical studies showing that premature births and complications are more likely following aborted pregnancies, Ostrowski pointed out that expanding prenatal care could save the state from the heavy financial burdens of covering birth complications or even disabled citizens.
"Our support is based on the importance of ensuring adequate health care for children, both before and after birth," said Beatrice Swoopes, associate director of the Kansas Catholic Conference.
But abortion advocates attacked the idea as another sham effort to ban abortions.
"The long-term goal of this bill is to make abortion illegal," Julie Burkhardt, executive director of the pro-abortion group Pro Kan Do, told the House Insurance Committee. Burkhardt argued that granting insurance eligibility to the unborn might give them medical preference over their mothers, such as mothers who might need to seek cancer treatments that could harm their unborn children.
Her remarks earned her a rebuke from the chair of the legislative panel.
"What you’re really against is unborn babies," Rep. Patricia Barbieri-Lightner (R-Overland Park), supporter of the legislation and chair of the Insurance Committee, said to Burkhardt.
Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Kansas NOW joined Burkhardt’s group in opposing the pro-life bill.
"This new coverage will give thousands of children a healthy start by providing access to prenatal care," Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said when the states were first allowed to expand their CHIP programs. "Prenatal care is crucial to the health and well-being of both mother and child. Vital services during pregnancy can be a life-long determinant of health and we should do everything possible to make this care available to everyone."
Meanwhile, the Kansas state house Federal and State Affairs Committee endorsed a bill to set standards for abortion providers Monday, another piece of pro-life legislation that will challenge pro-abortion Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who vetoed the health standards bill last session.