Note: Before reading the column below, please be aware that Primary Election Day is right around the corner (May 10) and early voting has already begun. To help you understand where candidates stand on the issues, the Nebraska Catholic Conference has officially launched the Nebraska Catholic Voter website (www.NebraskaCatholicVoter.com). At the NCV website, you can learn about candidates for Governor, Nebraska Legislature, State Board of Education, and U.S. Congress. Share our voter guide with your friends, families, and parishioners!
Last Wednesday, the Nebraska Legislature debated and ultimately failed to advance LB933, the Nebraska Human Life Protection Act. The bill, which would have made abortion illegal in Nebraska the day Roe v. Wade is overturned, needed 33 votes to break a filibuster and advance. It received only 31 (with 15 votes against and 3 absent) and therefore died in the first round.
Before the vote, LB933 was filibustered by opponents for 8 hours. Many opponents laid their cards on the table and stated flatly that they were in favor of legal abortion. In an attempt to persuade those on the fence about the bill, opponents also threw out every argument against it they could think of, including that it would ban all or some of the following: lifesaving interventions for women whose lives are in danger, in vitro fertilization, contraception, and/or proper care of a woman after she suffers a miscarriage. All these arguments were false; many of them were transparently ludicrous. Opponents also took issue with the fact that the bill included protections for human beings who came into existence after rape or incest.
Finally, they repeated the old anti-scientific trope that it is impossible to know when life begins, as well as advancing one new argument I had never heard before: that men sharing basic facts about embryonic development during a debate about abortion is “demeaning” and “disrespectful to women.”
As I have noted in a previous column for the Southern Nebraska Register, there is no actual controversy on when human life begins—scientifically there is virtual consensus on that issue and has been for quite a long time. Abortion is the intentional destruction of a human life. That is what LB933 would have prohibited.
LB933 took great pains to be sure doctors would not have to worry about performing legitimate procedures such as treating a woman with a potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy (which always results in the foreseen but unintended death of the child). According to LB933’s language, there is no violation of the law unless a person can be shown to have performed a procedure on a pregnant woman or distributed drugs to her with the specific intent of killing her unborn child. On top of this specific “intent to kill” provision, the bill also provided a defense to physicians who perform a procedure leading to the child’s death if the procedure was “reasonably medically necessary” to save the mother’s life.
200 Nebraska medical professionals signed a letter to the Legislature in support of LB933.
Senator Joni Albrecht, the bill’s lead sponsor, was a champion for life and an excellent ambassador for unborn children and their mothers. She and many others repeatedly reminded senators of the humanity of the unborn child, the fact that 200,000 young Nebraskans have been killed by abortion since 1973—10% of our state’s population—and that women deserve much better than abandonment to abortion.
Speaker Mike Hilgers, who prioritized the bill, ably defended its constitutionality. Senator Mike Flood, who introduced and passed Nebraska’s first-in-the-nation 20-week abortion ban in 2010, argued persuasively that, as has been the case with the 20-week ban, LB933 would effectively eliminate abortion without limiting doctors operating in good faith.
A new voice, Senator Mike Jacobson of North Platte, spoke movingly about losing a young son and about his family’s experience with adoption. Senators Lou Ann Linehan, Dave Murman, Rita Sanders, and John Arch (the chairman of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee) spoke powerfully about the importance of recognizing the humanity of unborn children and protecting their lives under the law. All told, supporters of the bill spoke persuasively and with deep conviction. The Legislature simply did not have quite enough votes to get the bill over the finish line this year.
We are, of course, deeply disappointed that the bill did not pass. But we are not discouraged, because God rewards hard work, and the pro-life cause is eminently just. We will be back at the very first opportunity to reintroduce and fight for legislation that will protect all unborn children from the violence of abortion in the state of Nebraska. And in God’s good time, we will prevail.