Nebraska abortion legislation leads way on sanctity of life, sparks controversy

by Stephen Brown

Nebraska, like the world, is polarized on abortion.  On one hand, the state is home to Dr. Leroy Carhart, a vocal pro-abortion advocate.  He operates Abortion & Contraception Clinic of Nebraska, which, as his website states, was founded to provide “first and second trimester abortions.”  On the other hand, however, it’s the state that recently passed groundbreaking legislation regulating abortion, a move that has sparked controversy not only nationwide, but internationally.

CBS News states that both sides of the issue call the bills “firsts in the country”. Nebraska’s unique unicameral legislature proposed the two bills earlier this year and both passed, becoming law.  At least, that is, if the army of opponents allows them to even have a chance at being practiced as law before shutting them down (and subsequently any other states’ similar legislation that may follow Nebraska’s precedent).

One of the major regulations signed into law this April was a state ban on abortions 20 weeks and later.  The basis of the law is the belief that fetuses as early as 20 weeks can feel pain.  Currently, laws use viability, or when a fetus is able to survive outside the womb, as the determining factor for limits on abortions, which is generally 22-24 weeks, meaning that Nebraska would prohibit abortions 2-4 weeks sooner than the national standard.

20 week human fetus.

The law, scheduled to take effect in October, already has major opposition.  CBS News states, “Abortion-rights advocates say that is a clear break with court precedent and it won’t withstand a court challenge.”  Dr. Carhart has suggested he might challenge the law, which would shut down his late-term abortion practice, which is one of only a few left nationwide.  One such practice in Kansas closed last year when Dr. Tiller, a friend of Carhart’s, was killed by an anti-abortion gunman.  Dr. Carhart offered to run the practice in conjunction with his in the Omaha area, but the Tiller family shut down the practice instead.

Another challenger to the law may be the Center for Reproductive Rights, which indicated their group may take legal action.  Planned Parenthood and similar organizations also have a vested interest in shutting the legislation down.  In Nebraska, abortions have been on a steady decline, dropping from nearly 5,800 abortions in 1985 to under 3,800 in 2005.  Further regulations on abortions would significantly affect these groups, not only in the state, but nationally.

The second law requires women to meet with a doctor to determine if they have risk factors for mental or physical problems post-abortion.  In a study published by Canada’s Winnipeg Free Press, the University of Manitoba found that nearly half of post-abortive women are plagued with depression and substance abuse.  About 25% of abortive women reported having substance addiction issues compared to only 7% of women who had not had a prior abortion.  While the study can’t prove that abortions caused the depression, panic attacks, addiction, and other problems, even opponents admitted there is a connection, recommending that women receive counseling prior to making a decision regarding their pregnancies.

The coming months are crucial to the laws’ success and only time will tell if these uniquely pro-life, pro-women’s health, and anti-fetal pain laws will see the light of day.

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