Pro-Life Groups Applaud Passage, Signing of Nebraska Abortion Screening, Fetal Pain Bills
by Steven Ertelt
April 13, 2010
Lincoln, NE (LifeNews.com) — Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman signed two pro-life bills into law today — one measure that bans abortions after 20 weeks based on the notion of fetal pain and another that screens women to prevent them from becoming victims of forced or pressured abortions.
Saying the Nebraska legislature may have changed the course of the nation’s abortion debate with its 44 to 5 passage today of LB 1103, the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, Julie Schmit-Albin, director of Nebraska Right to Life, hailed its passage.
"The Nebraska Legislature took a bold step today which should ratchet up the abortion debate across America." said Schmit-Albin. "LB 1103 bans abortion at 20 weeks gestation based on medical documentation that unborn babies are capable of feeling pain at that point and beyond."
"What we didn’t know in 1973 when Roe v. Wade was foisted upon the nation; we know now through the technological advances of in-utero surgery and 4-D ultrasound. Nebraska has a compelling interest in protecting unborn babies who feel pain at this gestation because we have a late term abortionist, LeRoy Carhart, performing abortions through at least 24 weeks here," she said.
Meanwhile, a ground-breaking bill ensuring that women will receive specific information about the possible physical and psychological complications of abortion was passed yesterday by the Nebraska legislature on a 40-9 vote.
Family First applauds the passage of this second pro-life bill, which was sponsored and prioritized by Sen. Cap Dierks of Ewing.
Paula Talley, one of the organizers of Stop Forced Abortions, said the bill has a provision that is monumental in that it makes Nebraska the first state to allow women to sue for mental health problems following abortions.
Women will be allowed to file lawsuits against abortion practitioners for psychological injuries related to unwanted, coerced or unsafe abortions.
"This is the first law in the country that allows women to hold abortionists accountable for negligent pre-abortion screening and counseling," Talley told LifeNews.com. "If it had been in place in 1980, I would have been spared the years of grief, depression, and substance use which followed my own unwanted abortion."
Judicial rules normally do not allow women to sue for psychological injuries after abortion unless the injuries stem from a physical injury, Talley explained. But the new Nebraska law is the first law in the country to eliminate the requirement that the woman must prove that psychological injuries from an abortion stemmed from a physical injury.
The law also puts into place a specific standard of care for appropriate pre-abortion screening. Abortion providers may be sued for negligence if they fail to ask a woman if she is being pressured, coerced or forced to have an abortion. They may also be held liable if they fail to screen women for other statistically significant risk factors that may put them at higher risk for psychological or physical complications following an abortion.
Research has found that as many as 64 percent of women feel pressured by others to have an abortion. In addition, one study found that even though more than half of women reported feeling rushed or uncertain about the abortion, 84 percent said they did not receive adequate counseling and 67 percent said they weren’t counseled at all.
In Talley’s case, she said, the pressure to abort came from her employer.
"My abortion counselor never asked if I was being pressured," Talley said. "Nor did she inquire about my psychological history. If she had, she should have known that I was at higher risk of experiencing post-abortion trauma because I had a history of depression. Plus, I had moral beliefs against abortion, but I was rushing into a poorly thought out decision because I was so filled with fear and panic.
"If the abortion counselor had bothered to ask the right questions, she would have seen that I was more likely to be hurt than helped by the abortion, But I was never warned. They just took my money, and my baby, no questions asked."
The law requires that abortion providers must screen women for risk factors that have been established in the research for a year or more prior to the abortion. Legislators opposing the bill argued that it would be nearly impossible for abortion providers to keep track of all the research on risks factors. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Cap Dierks, disagreed.
Dierks said that a report from the American Psychological Association found that an average of 12 studies per year are published on the subject.
"Surely its not too much to ask abortion providers to read 12 studies per year," Dierks said. "Women rightly expect their doctors to keep up to date on their area of specialty. Why would we want the standard of care for abortion to be less than that for other medical procedures?"
Sen. Brad Ashford, an attorney and the chair of the Judiciary Committee that reviewed the bill, told the Legislature that the law did not raise any obvious constitutional issues because it relies only on civil remedies and does not place any burdens on women. He said that any burden caused by the screening requirements falls primarily on the abortion provider, not on the women whose rights are expanded by the bill.
Greg Schleppenbach, Director of Pro-Life Activities for the Nebraska Catholic Conference, helped lead the lobbying effort for the legislation. He said that "women deserve better than one-size-fits-all counseling — no counseling at all."
"Ninety-nine percent of abortions in Nebraska take place in two abortion facilities," Schleppenbach said. "Their informed consent counseling consists of recorded phone messages 24 hours before the abortions and most women never see the abortion provider except during the 10 minutes or so he is doing the abortion. Women deserve better."
Schleppenbach said that the stories he had heard from women who have suffered from emotional problems after an abortion provided the impetus for passing legislation that would improve their right to redress.
"Most people dont realize that under the existing rules of law, it is essentially impossible for women to hold abortion providers liable for inadequate screening and counseling," he said. "This is why the standard of care for abortion counseling has fallen to such a dismal level. If abortion providers face no liability for inadequate screening, cost-cutting measures will inevitably lead to an assembly line process with one-size-fits-all counseling.
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