Nebraska Legislature Fails To Advance Six-Week Abortion Ban

Nebraska’s Lincoln The Nebraska Legislature’s attempt to break a filibuster on a measure outlawed abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy fell one vote short on Thursday.

This indicates that despite Republican Governor Jim Pillen’s vocal call for it, the law is unlikely to advance this year. Following the unsuccessful vote, the Legislature adjourned and won’t meet again until Tuesday.

The state’s attempt to limit access to abortions failed for the second year. Since 2010, Nebraska has had a law prohibiting abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.

Abortion would be prohibited under the proposed legislation whenever heart activity is seen.

A motion to adjourn the discussion on Thursday to move the bill to the next round of discussion was defeated 32–15. 33 votes were required to pass the proposal.

After the final vote, supporters of the law brandished placards and screamed, “Whose house?” as cheers broke out outside the legislative chamber’s doors. “Our home!”

One of them was Pat Neal, 72, of Lincoln, who has been working for abortion rights since she had her abortion in 1973, the year the Roe v. Wade ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court established the right to abortion for all women in the country.

“I was 11 weeks pregnant and in the middle of a divorce,” Neal stated that she was afraid of her husband because he was a combat veteran of the Vietnam War and was “carrying some demons.”

Like most of the crowd, Neal was shocked by the outcome of the vote.

“This gives me hope for the future,” she said. “It gives me hope that the direction we’ve been seeing — across the country — could turn around.”

Sen. Merv Riepe abstained, preventing the bill from receiving the 33rd vote. He signed the bill as a cosponsor, although earlier this year he expressed worry that a six-week restriction might not allow women enough time to detect pregnancy.

Nebraska Legislature Fails To Advance Six-Week Abortion Ban

Riepe, a former hospital administrator from Ralston, submitted an amendment on Thursday that would have increased the ban’s intended duration to 12 weeks and included any fetal deformities judged incompatible with life to the bill’s exceptions.

Riepe used the microphone to caution his conservative colleagues that they should pay attention to indicators that abortion will inspire women to vote them out of office after receiving opposition from fellow Republicans on the amendment.

He used his own election from the previous year as an example, pointing out that in a four-person contest, he won the May primary with around 45% of the vote and was a stunning 27 points ahead of his closest rival.

However, his margin of victory in the general election over that same challenger—a Democrat who made abortion rights the center of her campaign—fell to just under 5 percentage points after the Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn Roe.

“We must embrace the future of reproductive rights,” he said.

The unsuccessful Nebraska measure provided exceptions for ectopic pregnancies and IVF operations and exceptions for rape, incest, and medical emergencies that endanger the mother’s life.

Additionally, it permitted the removal of a dead fetus from the womb. It did not impose criminal sanctions on either women who obtain abortions or medical professionals who carry them out.

Instead, it would have linked medical license suspension to professional discipline for doctors who perform abortions in contravention of the law.

By the end of the debate, opponents appeared ready to support Riepe’s amendment. Still, they mainly focused on issues with the bill, claiming it was ambiguous and could subject medical professionals to criminal penalties.

Especially in light of a 1977 state law that makes abortions performed outside of accepted medical procedures a felony.

“Doctors are not going to have an adequate opportunity to know what’s going on with this law,” Sen. John Cavanaugh said.

Sen. Joni Albrecht of Thurston, the bill’s author, refuted that claim by claiming that her legislation “is the friendliest pro-life bill out there” to the medical community.

However, she opposed a compromise measure by Omaha Senator Jen Day that would have explicitly exempted women and healthcare workers from the criminal penalties related to an abortion.

Albrecht declared, “This is simply not necessary.”

She also disapproved of Riepe’s amendment, saying that giving pregnant women 12 weeks to have an abortion was unfair because her 6-week proposal “was a big compromise” from the comprehensive abortion ban she had proposed and failed to get passed the year before, which had no exemptions for rape or incest.

“This bill is about one thing,” she said. “It’s protecting babies with beating hearts from elective abortion.”

The only single-chamber, nominally nonpartisan legislature in the country is found in Nebraska. However, each of its 49 lawmakers—all of whom identify as Republicans or Democrats—tends to put forth and support legislation in accordance with party lines.

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Democrats only have 17 seats, compared to the 32 held by Republicans. Despite the fact that measures can be passed with a simple majority, a filibuster must be broken with a supermajority of 33 votes. Therefore, a single lawmaker defying their party could determine whether a bill is passed for the year.

Albrecht’s so-called trigger bill would have automatically prohibited almost all abortions in the state as soon as the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Roe v.

Wade, which had protected the right to abortion statewide for over five decades, was defeated last year due to the narrow gap. Two votes defeated this bill.

Sen. Mike McDonnell, a Democrat, joined Republicans in voting to approve the abortion law earlier this year. He gave the reason because he is a devoted Roman Catholic and has always run as an opponent of abortion.

On Thursday, Omaha Senator Justin Wayne, a fellow Democrat, abstained while McDonnell voted to stop the debate.

The newly-elected governor Pillen, anxious to put the legislation into law, made a statement urging Riepe to rethink his support for the measure after the Legislature had already adjourned. When the body reconvenes, it’s unclear whether Riepe could even propose a reconsideration motion.

Following the vote, Jo Giles, executive director of the Women’s Fund of Omaha, broke down in tears outside the legislative chamber.

Wow!” she exclaimed. “This was unexpected, but we’re so glad to have this win. We have fought so hard. This bill is not what the majority of women in this state wanted.”

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