Nebraska advances new 2nd trimester abortion restrictions

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A proposal to outlaw a second-trimester abortion procedure cleared a major hurdle Wednesday in the Nebraska Legislature, a signal that it’s likely to pass in the final days of this year’s session.

Lawmakers gave the measure first-round approval on a 34-9 vote after supporters broke through a filibuster led by abortion-rights supporters. Two additional votes are required before the bill goes to Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, who supports it.

The bill would outlaw the use of clamps, forceps, tongs or scissors to perform what’s known as a dilation and evacuation abortion. Abortion opponents refer to the procedure as a dismemberment abortion because it often requires doctors to remove a fetus in several pieces.

Similar measures have passed in at least 12 other states, but most have been struck down in courts as unconstitutional.

“We are talking about eliminating a procedure that is barbaric,” said Sen. Suzanne Geist, of Lincoln, the bill’s lead sponsor.

Nearly 90% of abortions in the United States are performed in the first trimester. But of those that take place after the first trimester, an estimated 95% use the dilation and evacuation procedure, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that advocates for reproductive rights.

Opponents say the Nebraska bill is certain to face a court challenge if it passes and will likely be declared unconstitutional. Last year, a federal judge blocked an Indiana state law days before it set to go into effect.

“The decision to end a pregnancy belongs with a woman and her doctor, not us sitting here playing doctor in the Legislature,” said Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, of Lincoln.

Sen. Megan Hunt, of Omaha, said lawmakers are wasting time in the final days of their legislative session when they should be focusing on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Hunt said the expected court fight over the bill will end up costing the state millions.

“None of you are going to pay a political price for that, are you, because you did what the anti-abortion lobby wanted,” she said in remarks to fellow lawmakers.

Nebraska has a long history of trying to restrict abortions. Two years ago, lawmakers and Ricketts approved a state budget that denied federal funding to Nebraska’s Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.

In 2010, Nebraska became the first state to ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, based on the disputed notion that fetuses can feel pain at that point in their development.

The new Nebraska proposal would still allow second-trimester abortions using suction to remove the fetus from the womb.

After Wednesday, lawmakers will have just four days remaining in their 60-day session.


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