On January 5, the first day of the 2022 legislative session, Nebraska Senator Julie Slama introduced LB781, a bill that would restrict abortion once a preborn child’s heartbeat is detected. Twenty senators signed onto the legislation as cosponsors.
“Nebraska is a pro-life state,” Slama said in a news release. “Passing LB781 is an absolute necessity to protect innocent life. Since 2000, we have lost over 50,000 lives to abortion in Nebraska. LB781 simply makes it illegal to stop a baby’s beating heart.”
Slama’s bill is similar to the Texas Heartbeat Act, in that it requires women to undergo an ultrasound prior to abortion. If a heartbeat is detected — which usually occurs around six weeks — abortion would be illegal, and any doctor found committing an abortion after this point would be charged with a felony. According to the Lincoln Journal Star, unlike the Texas legislation, Slama’s bill does not contain wording that would allow private citizens to sue violators of the law. It also contains no exceptions for rape or incest.
Slama responded to criticism that some women don’t even know they’re pregnant at six weeks gestation, pointing out that it is irrelevant when a woman discovers her pregnancy, as that doesn’t detract from the humanity of the preborn child.
“That baby still has a beating heart,” she said, according to Nebraska Public Media. “Women find out at various times during their pregnancy when they’re pregnant. Some women don’t find out at all until they give birth. So that baby has a beating heart and has a right to life.”
The ACLU immediately spoke out against Slama’s bill, calling it “one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the entire nation.” The group is working with Senator Megan Hunt to counter the heartbeat bill by introducing two other bills that would expand abortion in the state. One, LB715, would remove a restriction that currently prohibits health insurance providers from providing abortion coverage, while the other, LB716, would allow non-physicians — like advanced practice registered nurses, certified nurse midwives, and physician assistants — to commit abortions.
Despite the dueling legislation, the Nebraska Family Alliance is optimistic about the state’s pro-life outlook. “This season is really an important opportunity for senators in Nebraska to pass pro-life laws to protect the unborn,” said the group’s policy director, Nate Grasz. “We think this is something that the people of Nebraska have been asking for and senators are ready to tackle. We want to see Nebraska be the best state in the entire country for protecting women and children from the harms of abortion.”
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