Nebraska Attorney General May Not Fully Defend New Abortion Screening Law

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 23, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Nebraska Attorney General May Not Fully Defend New Abortion Screening Law

by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 23
, 2010

Lincoln, NE ( — Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said in a radio interview today that he may not fully defend a new state law that helps women obtain more information about abortion risks. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland filed a lawsuit against a bill supported by pro-life advocates.

The measure is designed to help women get the kind of information on abortion’s risks and alternatives that it fails to provide.

During an interview on Lincoln’s KLIN radio, Bruning said he is debating whether it is worth the time and expense to defend the law through what is expected to be a lengthy appeals process or whether lawmakers should draft a new bill to respond to the issues raised in the lawsuit.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp issued a ruling blocking the state from enforcing the law.

When he issued a statement to coincide with his brief filed beforehand to defend LB 594, he said he vigorously opposed the preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order requested by Planned Parenthood.

“LB 594 was enacted to ensure that women are informed of the risks and complications of having an abortion,” said Bruning. “Today we filed our brief and we are confident the law will stand.”

His brief argued Planned Parenthood is not the proper party to bring suit because only physicians are subject to liability under the Act. He also said the officials are not properly named defendants as they have no authority to enforce LB 594.

The abortion business is challenging LB 594, the "Women’s Health Protection Act" and complained the bill "imposes requirements that are both impossible to meet and require physicians to flood their patients with false and misleading information."

The new law tightens 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.

In her decision, Judge Smith Camp said the evidence shows her the law may make it more difficult for women to get abortions and said she is concerned abortion practitioners may be subject to crippling lawsuits.

"The effect of LB 594 will be to place substantial, likely insurmountable, obstacles in the path of women seeking abortions in Nebraska," AP reported the judge saying. "Plaintiffs have presented substantial evidence that the disclosures mandated by LB 594, if applied literally, will require medical providers to give untruthful, misleading and irrelevant information to patients."

The Elliot Institute, which does research on post-abortion issues and aiding the drafting of the measure, noted the judge did not "grant a preliminary injunction to protect Planned Parenthood and its employees from any criminal penalties, fines, or loss of license in the event they fail to provide the standard of care required by the law. This does not effect women’s ability to sue for negligent screening or psychological damages while the injunction is in effect."

"Specifically, the injunction prohibits the state attorney general, the governor, and other officers of the state from seeking to use the new law as a basis for revoking the licenses of abortion clinics or for engaging in other disciplinary measures against clinics or their staff," the group says.

"Proponents said the law was never intended to provide for prosecution by state authorities, but was simply meant to allow abortion patients or their survivors to more easily hold abortion providers accountable for negligent screening. That aspect of the law has not been affected by the ruling," it said.

Shannon Kingery, a spokeswoman for the Nebraska Attorney General’s office, told AP the state would respect the order and continue to defend the law in court.

Republican Gov. Dave Heineman signed the bill into law in April after the unicameral Nebraska legislature approved it 44-5.

He said the bill, and another educating women on the pain their unborn child will feel during an abortion, is " important legislation for Nebraska and I want to thank both senators for their thoughtful approach to this issue."

“Women are suffering from avoidable physical and psychological complications that may have been prevented or minimized had they received adequate pre-abortion screening and counseling,” Sen. Cap Dierks, who introduced LB 594, said at the time of the bill signing. “Women deserve better. LB 594 will ensure that women receive the appropriate standard of care.”

Abortion advocates complained about the lack of a mental health exception in the bill even though studies repeatedly show abortions cause mental health problems for women more so than women who carry their pregnancy to term.

LB 594 allows for civil lawsuits against abortion practitioners who fail to screen women for risk factors of abortion or to inform them of the potential complications of the abortion procedure.

LeRoy Carhart, who does abortions and late-term abortions at his Omaha-based abortion facility, called the bill "yet another piece of anti-choice legislation that does nothing but hinder a woman’s access to safe, legal abortion care."

But the Nebraska Catholic Conference says it is abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood that "have compromised the standard of care for counseling and screening of patients in order to reduce costs and maximize profits."

"In hundreds of cases each day, known risk factors for physical and psychological complications are not being detected because of negligent pre-abortion screening," it says. "Women are suffering from avoidable physical and psychological complications that may have been prevented or minimized if the proper pre-abortion screening standards had been met."

The bill does not impose any requirements on abortion providers that are contrary to the standard of care for screening which applies to other medical procedures.


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