Board Votes To Provide Care Prenatal Care To Illegal Immigrants

Thursday, October 11th 2007, 5:48 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Members of the board of Oklahoma Health Care Authority voted 6-1 on Thursday for a rule that will allow the agency to pay for the prenatal care of illegal immigrants.

Governor Brad Henry said he will sign the emergency rule, which was adopted with no debate during a board meeting in Ada. Henry said it would make newborns healthier and save taxpayers money over time.

The sponsor of a 2007 law to crack down on illegal immigration, Representative Randy Terrill, called the new rule illegal.

``I'm disappointed, but not surprised,'' Terrill said. ``They've been pushing this agenda for almost two years now.''

The Moore Republican said he would ask the attorney general for a legal opinion on whether the health care agency exceeded its authority in adopting the rule.

Paul Sund, spokesman for Henry, said the rule is similar to rules in effect in a dozen states, including Arkansas and Texas.

``Governor Henry believes this is a pro-life, pro-health proposal,'' Sund said. ``Prenatal care encourages expectant mothers to carry their babies to term and ensures that those children, who are U.S. citizens and Oklahoma citizens, get a healthy start on life.''

Jan Figar of the Family Health Coalition in Tulsa spoke in favor of the rule during the OHCA meeting. She said her agency provides services to pregnant illegal immigrants and is overburdened.

Lyle Roggow, chairman of the OHCA board, cast the only vote against the rule. Roggow is one of three board members appointed by Henry. Roggow said he was looking out for taxpayers' interests.

Senate President Pro Tem Mike Morgan praised the OHCA action.

``Anyone who questions the decision by the OHCA to offer this fair shot at life to innocent children is sending a dangerous and hypocritical message that they do not embrace a culture of life,'' Morgan said.