Supporters and opponents of the Nebraska Pregnancy Help Act brought on a debate about whether or not a $10 million tax credit should be established to incentivize private donations to pregnancy help centers.
Senators heard testimonies both for and against the Nebraska Pregnancy Help Act, which would establish a $10 million tax credit for donations to pregnancy help centers, during a meeting of the state Revenue Committee on Feb. 24.
Proposed by Senator Joni Albrecht, LB 606 would create a way for private donors to decrease the amount of taxes they owe based on how much of their income they give. The bill was proposed in conjunction with LB 626, which would prohibit abortions if a fetal heartbeat were detected.
“I believe this is one of the most important things that we can do in a time when we are also working to enable greater protections for the unborn in Nebraska,” Albrecht said in her beginning testimony to the committee.
Supporters of the bill were employees and patrons of three different centers around the state, including Essential Pregnancy Services, Bethlehem House and Collage. They cited their respective organizations’ work or their positive experiences as reasons behind their endorsement.
Laura Guddenberg, who recently retired as the executive director of Essential Pregnancy Services in Omaha, voiced support for LB 606 because EPS has a growing need for donations to keep the center going.
According to Guddenberg, in January of this year, EPS provided 1,373 total services to 325 families. Those services included 3,285 material assistance items delivered and 462 completed parenting and life skills classes.
She also emphasized how much more EPS’s services are now needed. Compared to two years ago, EPS had an increase in new client registration of 36% and an increase in completed parenting and life skills classes of 162% in the last fiscal year. There was a 242% increase in case management assistance and an 81% increase in material assistance provided to clients.
“Building stable families builds a much better local community, and local communities make for a better Nebraska,” Guddenberg said.
Joey Ruff also provided evidence of the benefits of pregnancy help centers as the senate director of the Collage Center in Grand Island. She told the story of a young couple who had once come to the center in the wake of an unexpected pregnancy, facing fears of what to do and how to tell their parents.
“We were not only able to provide medical services that they needed, [but also] instill a little courage and even give them some helpful suggestions on where to start that conversation,” Ruff said.
Organizations will only be eligible if they do not receive 75 percent of their funding from government grants or encourage abortion procedures of any kind. The latter requirement is what makes opposers of LB 606 so weary.
For Claire Wiebe, the senior manager of public affairs at Planned Parenthood North Central States, passing the bill would allow private donors who support centers with potentially harmful requirements for their services to be reimbursed using taxpayer money.
Wiebe’s testimony included depictions of pregnant patients who had gone into CPCs and were denied STI testing until they had an ultrasound, denied an abortion until they received results from a mandatory STI test or lied to about how far into their pregnancy they were.
The interim executive director at the ACLU of Nebraska, Mindy Rush Chipman, also raised concerns about these types of centers in her testimony. She presented a report made by the ACLU in May 2022.
The report laid out data found after reviewing 16 Nebraska organizations’ websites. Only one of the websites disclosed that the organization was not a medical institution, and two of the websites claimed that abortions can cause the death of a patient.
“Given what we know about the common practices of these centers…offering tax incentives for the centers to receive more funding is extremely concerning and should be rejected by this committee,” Chipman said.