Nebraska weighs bill to ban abortion if court overturns Roe vs. Wade

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Published: Apr. 6, 2022 at 5:39 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 6, 2022 at 7:58 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska would immediately ban abortions if the U.S. Supreme Court ever overturns its 1973 decision to legalize the procedure under a bill that sharply divided lawmakers on Wednesday.

Lawmakers remained stuck on the measure and weren’t expected to take the first of three required votes on it until later Wednesday evening. If it passes, Nebraska would become the 14th state nationally to enact a so-called trigger law.

Supporters of the measure said it would ensure that Nebraska is among the first states to outlaw abortion if the court overturns Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that allowed the procedure.

“This is about ensuring our most precious and vulnerable people, the preborn, are protected,” said Sen. Joni Albrecht, the bill’s lead sponsor.

Opponents slammed the measure as an intrusion on women’s ability to make personal medical decisions.

“What are you all thinking?” asked Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, of Lincoln. “I have a daughter, she’s 25 years old, and you all are not invited into her medical examination appointments.”

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The debate comes ahead of an expected June ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which concerns a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks or pregnancy. The court’s 1973 ruling, Roe v. Wade, allows state to regulate but not ban abortions up to the point of fetal viability, at roughly 24 weeks.

Nebraska became the first state to ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy in 2010, and the state outlawed a second-trimester abortion procedure in 2020 despite fervent protests from abortion-rights supporters.

The latest measure faces a tougher path, however, because of the current political make-up of Nebraska’s one-house, officially nonpartisan Legislature.

At least 33 votes are required to overcome a filibuster and force a vote on the bill. Republicans in the Legislature hold 32 seats and Democrats have 17. One Democratic lawmaker also typically opposes abortion, but he’s offset by a Republican who has voted in favor of abortion rights in recent years.

Another Republican lawmaker, state Sen. Robert Hilkemann, a retired Omaha doctor, said he was uncomfortable with parts of the measure that could expose physicians to felony charges in a situation where they end up terminating a pregnancy.

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