Note: Please see a recent update in AP style, which avoids the use of “fetal heartbeat” bill since this legislation addresses neither a fetus (it’s still an embryo) nor a heartbeat (it hasn’t yet developed a heart).
Omaha, Nebraska—A near total abortion ban proposed in Nebraska puts doctors in danger of losing their license and a lot remains unclear on how its exceptions for rape and incest would be allowed, putting doctors in jeopardy if an abortion provided under the exceptions is deemed illegal.
The near total abortion ban would outlaw abortions at about six weeks of pregnancy, before many people know they are pregnant. It would cause doctors who perform abortions at about six weeks of abortion or without an ultrasound to lose their license. It would be enforced by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, which would create a panel of medical peers to review any allegations leveraged against health care providers. The Nebraska attorney general’s office, which supports abortion restrictions, would decide the legal parameters in determining if an abortion falls under an exception in the law.
“All abortion bans—whether or not they have exceptions—are extreme and inhumane,” said Andi Curry Grubb, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Nebraska. “They take away Nebraskans’ ability to control their own bodies and futures. All patients come to Planned Parenthood with their own unique circumstances, and including exceptions to make the near total abortion ban more palatable does not fix the public health crisis that will be created and the damage this ban will do to our communities. Exceptions are unlikely to provide meaningful access to patients in need and only instill fear among the doctors who provide care.”
Bill authors say it allows for abortions to be provided if the patient is a victim of assault, but the bill requires patients to disclose that they are a survivor. Although 1% percent of Nebraskans who have had abortions reported being survivors of rape, assault or incest, approximately one-third who received abortion care declined to provide a reason for their abortion. That means, most likely, far more than 1% of Nebraskans are survivors seeking care.
Nebraska Right to Life is concerned about the survivor “loophole” and would support future legislation addressing use of the exception.
Bill authors also say it includes an exception for the life of the pregnant person, but the bill language fails to outline the details of how or who would determine that the pregnant person is sick enough to receive an abortion. Previous experiences with hospital review panels have proven to put pregnant people in dangerous situations, where doctors are conferring with lawyers to make decisions about when an abortion can be provided.
“My wife would have died under this proposed ban,” Sam Zelesky said in a recent column. “Exceptions for the life of the mother in reality are not clear cut, especially when your spouse is dying.”
Nebraska lawmakers who want to outlaw abortion last week passed the near total abortion ban through the first of the potentially three rounds of debate needed to pass the measure into law. Opponents of the ban were one vote short of blocking the legislation. It’s unclear when it will be scheduled for a second round of debate.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Nebraska is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit organization. As the advocacy and electoral arm of PPNCS, we mobilize supporters of all parties to defend and increase access to family planning services and fact based, medically accurate sexuality education. We work to inspire and engage citizens to take up the cause of reproductive health and rights through education, electoral activity, grassroots organizing and legislative advocacy.