Nebraska Holds Hearing on “Fetal Pain” Bill Banning Later Pre-Viability Abortions

I testified yesterday in opposition to Nebraska LB 1103, which would ban abortions starting at 20 weeks after fertilization, and which contains only a very narrow health exception.   The ban is unconstitutional because, as the sponsor readily admits, it prohibits abortions before the fetus is viable.   Moreover, its extremely narrow exception unconstitutionally endangers women’s health.   Leslie Griffin (University of Houston Law Center) also testified against the bill, while Teresa Stanton Collett (University of St. Thomas Law School) testified in support.   Nebraska has the country’s only unicameral legislature, so this will be the only hearing on the bill.

At the hearing,   proponents of the bill were asked about the lack of a mental health exception.  In response to questions about a woman who is suicidal, they suggested she be treated with electroconvulsive therapy and be confined and restrained for the duration of her pregnancy, rather than be allowed access to abortion.   Meanwhile, as the hearing on LB 1103 was in progress, a committee in a nearby hearing room debated a prenatal care bill. Supposedly “pro-life” Governor Heineman has  expressed his opposition to this legislation “because it would provide taxpayer-funded benefits to illegal immigrants.”  Fetuses of “illegal immigrants” with wanted pregnancies don’t count as “unborn babies” that deserve protection?  Legal scholars, pain experts debate abortion bill, by JoAnne Young:

A committee of the Nebraska Legislature heard from experts on constitutional law and pain management Thursday as it sifted through the question of whether the state should ban abortions as early as the 20th week of pregnancy.

Supporters and opponents of the bill (LB1103) introduced by Speaker Mike Flood filled the hearing room. For the first time, those attending had to pass through a metal detector at the door. . . .

ABC News:  Proposed Abortion Bill Focused on When Fetus Feels Pain, by Emily Ingram:

Nebraska legislators are proposing a bill on abortion that, if passed, would be the strictest in the nation and would ban most abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy.

The first public hearing on the so-called Abortion Pain Prevention Act today drew a crowd of 100, and medical and legal experts from as far away as New York City, Alaska and Boston.

The bill’s history and text is available here (click on “Introduced Copy” for text).

-Caitlin Borgmann (cross-posted at the Reproductive Rights Prof Blog)

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