Nebraskans make voices heard on both sides at ‘heartbeat bill’ hearing

The recently introduced LB626 would prohibit abortions past six weeks if passed.
Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 10:40 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - It’s an issue that leaves little room for fence-sitting, and you could see and hear that in and around the Nebraska capitol Wednesday.

A line of people wrapped through the halls for most of the day waiting in line to get inside the Health and Human Services hearing room for a chance to speak for or against making the state’s abortion law more strict.

State Senator Joni Albrecht introduced LB 626 known as the ‘Nebraska Heartbeat Act’ to the Health and Human Services Committee.

“Before performing an abortion, a physician must perform an ultrasound to listen for a fetal heartbeat,” Albrecht said. “If the heartbeat is detected performing an abortion is unlawful except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.”

The act would prohibit abortion past about six weeks when the heart first begins to form.

Droves of supporters and opponents showed up Wednesday, well over a hundred people hoping to testify.

Organizations like Planned Parenthood and the ALCU of Nebraska oppose the bill.

Currently, Nebraska prevents abortions after 20 weeks, but for college senior Taylor Hickey that’s nowhere near enough restriction, she supports a total ban.

“I think by at least getting this bill passed it will give the space for more conversations to happen,” Hickey said.

For those on the opposing side, like Noel Tonniges, it’s a matter of personal freedom. She said the bill would amount to a near-total ban since many women don’t know they’re pregnant before six weeks.

“Being able to choose what happens to my body, especially as a young woman, bills like this directly prohibit the potential that I have,” Tonniges said.

Testimony went well into the night on Wednesday, but no action was taken.

In the coming weeks, the Health and Human Services Committee could vote to send the bill to the floor of the unicameral for a full debate.