Proposed abortion restrictions hit snag in Nebraska

Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 5:54 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A proposal to outlaw a common second-trimester abortion procedure in Nebraska hit a snag in the Legislature on Wednesday, leaving its prospects unclear.

Opponents used a filibuster to keep the measure from coming to a vote after the allotted three hours of debate, forcing lawmakers to move on to other issues.

Supporters now have to show they have a 33-vote super-majority of support necessary to overcome the filibuster at a later date.

If they don’t, the bill will effectively die for the year. The measure appears to have support from a majority of the Legislature’s 49 senators, but getting to the higher threshold is much harder.

The abortion bill would ban dilation and evacuation abortions, which opponents refer to as “dismemberment abortion.” The procedure is commonly used for women in the second trimester of their pregnancy. Federal courts have blocked similar bans in other states.

Supporters described the practice as barbaric and described in graphic detail the process of pulling apart the fetus to remove it from the uterus.

“It’s an unthinkable way to dispose of a child,” said Sen. Suzanne Geist, of Lincoln, the bill’s lead sponsor.

Opponents argued that lawmakers should focus on addressing the pandemic instead of divisive issues such as abortion, but promised a lawsuit to challenge the measure if it passes.

“It’s a political move in a pandemic, in a public health crisis, that’s going to waste a lot of time,” said Sen. Megan Hunt, of Omaha. “And we also know it’s going to waste a lot of taxpayer money.”

Abortion-rights supporters have also said the bill would criminalize the medically preferred method of carrying out abortions for women who are more than 12 weeks pregnant. Nebraska already prohibits most abortions after 20 weeks, based on the disputed theory that a fetus at that point can feel pain.

Sen. John McCollister, of Omaha, said the bill is unworkable for doctors because it doesn’t offer clear guidance when the mother’s health is at risk.

“The fact is, we’re inserting the state between the doctors and the woman patient, and I believe that is wrong,” he said.

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