Six-week abortion ban w/ pregnancy assistance could be in Nebraska’s future – North Platte Bulletin

State Sen. Joni Albrecht of Thurston held a news conference in the Nebraska State Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 11 to detail a proposed ban on abortions that includes exceptions for the life of the mother, rape and incest.

Twenty-eight of her colleagues joined her, including Sen. Mike Jacobson of North Platte.

Albrecht’s Nebraska Heartbeat Act and Nebraska Pregnancy Help Act would reduce abortion access from 20 to about 6 weeks. It had not yet been introduced as of Friday, Jan. 13.

A second bill would offer up to $10 million in tax credits to incentivize donations to more 25 pregnancy help organizations statewide that provide education, food, supplies, transportation, housing and job assistance to pregnant mothers.

“Every parent remembers hearing their child’s heartbeat for the very first time,” Albrecht said. “A heartbeat is a universal sign of life, and we also know that abortion stops a beating heart.”

“For a young woman all alone, that (first) heartbeat can be very frightening,” Albrecht said. Pregnancy-help organization staff and volunteers (would) walk with her through the flood of emotions.

With 25 pregnancy-help organizations in every corner of the state, free services would help women at every stage, she said.


Abortions would be banned as early as six weeks at the detection of what is sometimes called a “fetal heartbeat,” the point at which sporadic electrical impulses that make rhythmic pulses — like a heartbeat — can be detected.

Physicians would be required to perform an ultrasound to listen for a fetal heartbeat. If a heartbeat is detected, physicians would be prohibited from aborting a living preborn baby.

A year ago, Albrecht introduced that would have outlawed abortion. The bill did not pass. It received criticisms it would affect ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages or in-vitro fertilization (IVF), and Albrecht said the new bill would specify these are not impacted.

State Sen. Julie Slama of Dunbar introduced a similar bill in 2022 that stalled in committee.

Dr. Robert Plambeck, a Lincoln-based OB-GYN, joined Albrecht at the news conference and said there’s nothing in the bill that would prevent him from providing life-saving care to the mother.

“There is no question, biologically or medically, that these are two separate human beings,” Plambeck, who’s specialized for 35 years, said. “They have their own heartbeats. They have their own genetic makeup. They have their own medical needs. They are two separate individual humans, and they both deserve compassionate and professional medical care.”

Doctors who perform abortions under the bill would not face criminal actions but could have their licenses revoked. Women seeking abortions would not face penalties.

Getting the votes

The senators in attendance Wednesday were Republicans except one (Sen. Mike McDonnell of Omaha). The other four Republicans in the body — State Sens. Tom Brandt of Plymouth, Myron Dorn of Adams, Ben Hansen of Blair and Speaker John Arch of La Vista — supported Albrecht’s 2022 bill, as did McDonnell.

This would net Albrecht 33 votes if those four and all in attendance gave their support, which would be enough to overcome a filibuster and become law. Still, opponents note it’s too early to start counting votes and are confident they could block the effort.

“We’ve blocked abortion bans in the past here in Nebraska, and I have no doubt that we can do it again,” State Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha said after the news conference.

State Sen. Danielle Conrad of Lincoln said she is “always optimistic that people will bring open hearts and open minds” to debate and understand what abortion restrictions have done in sister states.

“It has hurt the practice of medicine, it has hurt citizens in their state, it has provided a chilling effect for a whole host of unintended consequences, and we can’t ignore that,” Conrad said, adding that people need to let the process play out.

After the news conference, Conrad, Hunt and State Sen. George Dungan of Lincoln described what the ban would mean, especially for women of color and women who are low-income or live in rural parts of the state. 

Hunt said many women may be “forced” to remain pregnant, face medical emergencies and leave the state for care.

“That’s cruel,” Hunt said. “It’s heartless, and it does not reflect Nebraska values.”

Dungan said Wednesday’s announcement is politicians getting in the way of women’s health care decisions. He said voters told him on the campaign trail that’s exactly what they don’t want.

“I consider myself a young person still, and I can tell you that when I have conversations with my friends and other people in my area, they say that laws like this make them want to leave,” said 38-year-old Dungan, the fourth youngest in the Legislature. “If a law like this passes, I think we’re going to see even more people leaving and less people coming in.”

Albrecht said statewide polling demonstrates that 58% of Nebraska voters, which includes nearly two-thirds of Independents and nearly half of Democrats, support a law that would protect unborn children from the moment their heartbeat can be detected.

Hunt has already introduced LR18CA and LR19CA for voters to decide whether the Nebraska Constitution should be amended to protect reproductive freedoms and prevent future restrictions.

Conrad introduced LR20CA with Hunt and State Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh of Omaha for voters to decide whether the right of individual privacy should be enshrined in the Nebraska Constitution.

Preparing for a potential future

It remains to be seen how senators will approach the issue once the bills are officially introduced — or what tools senators could use to block legislation if it maintains this level of support — but Albrecht said women need to be prepared.

“Hopefully, before the bill is brought into law, (women will) understand that it is a six-week ban and that they do need to seek professional help if they feel that they are going to be having a baby,” she said.

(The North Platte Bulletin contributed to this report.)

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