Nebraska Bill to Ban Late-term Abortions Based on Fetal Pain Gets Panel’s Okay
by Steven Ertelt
March 18, 2010
Lincoln, NE (LifeNews.com) — A Nebraska bill that could set a national precedent for banning late-term abortions based on the concept of fetal pain has received committee approval. The Judicial Committee approved LB 1103 on a 5-3 vote and it would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy when an unborn child can feel pain.
The ban on partial-birth abortions brought home the pro-life message that abortion kills an unborn child and was responsible for shifting public opinion on abortion squarely into the pro-life category.
Now, Nebraska could pave the way for the next kind of abortion ban that could pique national interest.
Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood introduced the bill in response to statements made by late-term abortion practitioner LeRoy Carhart that he would be doing late second and third trimester abortions at his Bellevue, Nebraska, abortion center.
"Post-viability abortions are more about money than about anything else. We have seen late-term fees charged, based on gestational age from $5,000-20,000 per abortion. It is a very lucrative business," said Operation Rescue president Troy Newman.
Fetal pain is not a new concept and the leading national expert on the topic confirms unborn children definitely have the capacity to feel intense pain during an abortion.
Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand of the University of Arkansas Medical Center has said he and other specialists in development of unborn children have shown that babies feel pain before birth as early as 20 weeks into the pregnancy.
State Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, the chairman of the panel, had concerns with the constitutionality of the bill but Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha said lawmakers shouldn’t worry about those concerns. Sen. Amanda McGill of Lincoln also opposed the bill.
Sens. Colby Coash, Mark Christensen, Kent Rogert, Lathrop and Lautenbaugh voted for the bill according to the Omaha World-Herald while Sens. Brenda Council, Ashford and McGill opposed it.
The Nebraska panel also approved a compantion bill, the Women’s Health Protection Act (LB594), that would tighten informed consent requirements that help women choose abortion alternatives. It helps women understand the physical, psychological, emotional, demographic or situational risk factors associated with an abortion.
Regarding the fetal pain abortion ban,
Nebraska Right to Life director Julie Schmit-Albin previously told LifeNews.com that the bill "will provide medical documentation that unborn babies can feel pain at 20 weeks gestation."
Why does a typical piece of state legislation have the potential to make a national impact? Namely because it has the potential — and the desire from pro-life groups — to go to the Supreme Court and result in another chipping away at the Roe v. Wade precedent that allowed 52 million abortions nationwide.
Mary Spaulding Balch, a state legislative attorney for National Right to Life, confirmed this in comments to the Omaha World-Herald newspaper earlier this month.
I think National Right to Life wants to see something go to the Supreme Court that would provide more protection to the unborn child, she said.
Balch also says the pro-life group wants the Supreme Court to redraw the line away from the viability standard about when abortions can be prohibited.
What I would like to bring to the attention of the court is, there is another line, Balch said. This new knowledge is something the court has not looked at before and should look at.
Janet Crepps, of the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, a pro-abortion law firm that frequently files lawsuits against pro-life legislation, made it appear a legal battle is brewing.
This bill is unconstitutional as it’s drafted, she claimed. Anybody who supports the bill should be clear that this is just a vehicle for them to go back to the Supreme Court and take rights away from women."
National Right to Life also says the genius of the Nebraska fetal pain abortion ban is that, like the partial-birth abortion ban, it has the ability to bring more people under the pro-life tent supporting a ban on some abortions.
"The genius of this measure, as was the case with the ban on partial-birth abortion, is that a legislator need not be a card-carrying member of our movement or even sympathetic. All that is required, in this instance, is a willingness to acknowledge the scientifically conclusive fact that unborn children are capable of experiencing pain, certainly by 20 weeks after fertilization,’ the group says.
The basis of the bill is the concept of fetal pain, which has the ability to emphasize the humanity of the unborn child as the partial-birth abortion ban did.
Anand said many medical studies conclude that unborn babies are "very likely" to be "extremely sensitive to pain during the gestation of 20 to 30 weeks."
"This is based on multiple lines of evidence," Dr. Anand said. "Not just the lack of descending inhibitory fibers, but also the number of receptors in the skin, the level of expression of various chemicals, neurotransmitters, receptors, and things like that."
Anand explained that later-term abortion procedures, such as a partial-birth abortion "would be likely to cause severe pain."
Dr. Jean Wright, an anesthesiologist specializing in Pediatric Critical Care Medicine, has also confirmed the existence of fetal pain during Congressional testimony.
[A]n unborn fetus after 20 weeks of gestation, has all the prerequisite anatomy, physiology, hormones, neurotransmitters, and electrical current to close the loop and create the conditions needed to perceive pain. In a fashion similar to explaining the electrical wiring to a new house, we would explain that the circuit is complete from skin to brain and back," she said.
And Dr. Richard T.F. Schmidt, past President of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, confirms, It can be clearly demonstrated that fetuses seek to evade certain stimuli in a manner which an infant or an adult would be interpreted as a reaction to pain.
An April 2004 Zogby poll shows that 77% of Americans back "laws requiring that women who are 20 weeks or more along in their pregnancy be given information about fetal pain before having an abortion."
Only 16 percent disagreed with such a proposal, according to the poll, commissioned by the National Right to Life Committee.
Related web sites:
National Right to Life Committee – https://www.NRLC.org
Sign Up for Free Pro-Life News From LifeNews.com
Daily Pro-Life News Report Twice-Weekly Pro-Life
News Report Receive a free daily email report from LifeNews.com with the latest pro-life news stories on abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research. Sign up here. Receive a free twice-weekly email report with the latest pro-life news headlines on abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research. Sign up here.