Denver – A pregnant undocumented woman in Nebraska filed a lawsuit against the state government and legislature in which she argues that the mother's immigration situation must not result in the denial of medical care for her unborn baby.
The woman, using the pseudonym "Sarah Roe," has three other children and loves with her husband in Lancaster County, where she filed the suit last week.
The 33-year-old Roe is receiving legal representation from the Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest, a non-profit based in Lincoln.
James Goddard, Roe's attorney, asked the court to seal the papers so that the woman's true identity is not revealed.
In the suit, Roe argues that Nebraska state agencies can deny medical services to her, since she is an undocumented immigrant, but not to her unborn baby.
The suit contends that the Nebraska Medical Assistance Act includes unborn babies in the category of children under 19 who qualify to receive free medical treatment without regard to the immigration situation of their parents.
In June, a law went into force in Nebraska prohibiting the provision of free prenatal medical services to undocumented foreigners.
Roe acknowledges that she is in that category. But, she says, other Nebraska laws indicate that children may receive medical care "from the moment of conception."
The plaintiff says in her lawsuit that when the Nebraska legislature approved the law denying medical services to undocumented mothers that law did not modify the benefits that were available to the children of those mothers.
She also said that she had paid for the medical care her baby required from the time she became pregnant in January up to March, when she could no longer pay, a situation that led her to request the free services that were later denied her by state health authorities.
In Roe's opinion, the state "acted above and beyond its legal authority and in violation of the separation of powers" when on June 28 the government decided that the prevailing laws acknowledging that unborn babies qualify for medical assistance did not apply in the case of undocumented immigrants.
The suit asks that the Lancaster County District Court order the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to provide prenatal care regardless of the prospective mothers' immigration status.
Roe asked that her lawsuit include all pregnant women and their unborn children who have been denied coverage within the framework of the Nebraska medical aid program.
It is estimated that there are up to 1,500 women who are in that category.
The state health department has not yet responded to the lawsuit.