Nebraska abortion law fight to resume in January

Special session didn’t have enough legislative support
Published: Aug. 8, 2022 at 10:56 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A unicameral legislature divided over Nebraska’s abortion laws will take up the issue in January after Governor Pete Ricketts released a statement Monday explaining why there will not be a special session in Lincoln to address the divisive issue.

Ricketts did not speak to the media, but in a statement said he found the decision to delay attempts to tighten the state’s abortion laws as “deeply saddening.”

“We are particularly disappointed in Sen. John Stenner and Sen. Robert Hilkemann, who voted in this last session for LB 933 but chose to leave us and basically indicate they will not maintain their polite commitment to strike more restrictive measures on abortion in a special session,” Nebraska Right to Life executive director Sandy Danek said.

As it turns out, coalitions on both sides of the issue aimed to call the decision a victory.

“We at the ACLU and our coalition partners are very encouraged by the announcement (that there will be no special session),” American Civil Liberties Union legal and policy counsel Scout Richter said. “What it really means is that so many Nebraskans who have gotten engaged on this issue from all across the state and have contacted their state senators and sent emails and really made their positions clear, that their voices are being heard.”

“Nebraska Right to Life has seen a record number of pro-life candidates enter this race and we will be working very hard getting out our voter guides that reflect who the pro-life candidates are, and working throughout the state to get the votes we need to get a stronger pro-life unicameral,” Danek said. “We have stood hard and fast in doing what we need to do to save lives, both for the woman and the child in the womb, and we will stand up for that challenge and will not fail.”

As several other states have quickly acted since the fall of Roe v. Wade to pass laws restricting a woman’s right to abortion access. In Nebraska, however, lawmakers failed in the most recent session to do so, underscoring a passionate divide in the state. The issue will continue to be played out at the ballot box in November and on the floor in January.

“They’re afraid of the issue now that we don’t have Roe v. Wade as a backstop,” Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha’s 8th District said. “Anti-abortion lawmakers don’t want to go there, because abortion bans are not popular with Nebraskans, and Nebraskans are starting to see what a post-Roe country looks like, and they understand that it’s wrong to come between a patient and her doctor.”

“I think what people are understanding now in a post-Roe world is that there really is no role for government in the patient-doctor relationship,” Women’s Fund of Omaha policy director Dr. Erin Feichtinger said. “One of the most important life decisions we will ever make is when to become a parent, and there really is no place and no room for lawmakers to be involved in what is ultimately a deeply personal decision for each person and each family and I think the majority of Nebraskans understand.”

The Nebraska Family Alliance and Nebraska Catholic Conference also released statements in response to the decision not to hold a special session.

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