Nebraska Bill to Ban Late-Term Abortions Based on Fetal Pain Passes First Vote
by Steven Ertelt
March 31, 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 its first approval vote from the unicameral state legislature. Nebraska lawmakers voted 38-5 for Legislative Bill 1103 so it would advance to the second round of debate.
The bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy when an unborn child can feel pain.
It has been hailed by pro-life advocates across the country for its innovative approach and focusing the public’s attention on unborn babies who have been medically documented as pain capable at 20 weeks gestation.
Julie Schmit-Albin, director of Nebraska Right to Life, emailed LifeNews.com after the legislature approved the measure.
"In Nebraska we don’t treat livestock or the family pets in the manner that unborn children are treated, particularly those who are 20 weeks gestation and older who are aborted at LeRoy Carhart’s abortion facility in Bellevue," she said. "By his own admission Carhart does hundreds of late term abortions a year. LB 1103 would go a long way in averting late term abortions done on babies 20 weeks and older who can feel pain."
"We applaud Speaker Mike Flood and his staff for their efforts to bring LB 1103 to the full legislature," Schmit-Albin added.
Flood talked about his bill during the debate on it.
"My bill doesn’t have to do with viability. It has to do with when the fetus feels pain," Flood said. "That is a life … worth protecting. To the extent there is consensus (on feeling pain), it’s at 20 weeks."
Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, spoke in favor of the legislation, according to the Lincoln Journal Star, while Lincoln Sen. Danielle Conrad, Lincoln Sen. Ken Haar and Omaha Sen. Brenda Council led the opposition to the pro-life bill.
Conrad attempted to amend the bill to weaken it but they settled on one that would make the law go into effect on October 15th, so the state would have time to put legal papers together in anticipation of a lawsuit from abortion advocates.
"Of course our adversaries would love to nullify the intent of LB 1103 with weakening amendments on the medical emergency exception or fetal anomaly situations," said Schmit-Albin of Nebraska Right to Life.
"Nebraska’s current post-viability statute has that kind of broad health exception which you could drive a truck through and which has allowed Carhart to do abortions through the third trimester. Our current statute is completely useless in addressing the new documentation of when unborn babies feel pain. Toward that end we will urge senators to reject any further weakening amendments and pass LB 1103 with the original provisions intact," she told LifeNews.com.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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