Nebraska Legislature Advances Bill to Ban Abortions on Unborn Babies With Beating Hearts

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Apr 13, 2023   |   9:48AM   |   Lincoln, Nebraska

Nebraska appears poised to become the next state to protect unborn babies by banning most elective abortions.

On Wednesday, the single-body state legislature voted to end the first round of debate and move forward with the Nebraska Heartbeat Act (LB 626), sponsored by state Sen. Joni Albrecht, R-Thurston. The vote was 33-16 with bipartisan support.

Several pro-abortion Democrats tried to block the legislation by filibustering, but the bill secured just enough votes to advance, KETV 7 reports. To break a filibuster, legislation needs a two-thirds majority support, or 33 votes.

“Today was a historic day in the Nebraska Legislature as LB 626, the Nebraska Heartbeat Act, was advanced! 33 senators voted to advance the bill after a long day of debate,” Nebraska Right to Life responded in a statement. “We are grateful for these strong proponents committed to protecting babies with beating hearts!”

The bill would prohibit abortions once an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detected, typically about six weeks of pregnancy. Exceptions would be allowed for rape, incest and medical emergencies involving the mother’s life or health.

ACTION ALERT: To urge support for the bill please Contact Nebraska state senators.

Currently, abortion is legal for any reason up to 20 weeks in Nebraska. In 2021, 2,360 unborn babies were aborted and nearly two thirds were later than six weeks of pregnancy, according to the state health department.

Earlier in the day, hundreds of people participated in a pro-life rally outside the state Capitol, calling on lawmakers to protect unborn babies from abortion. Speaking to the crowd, Gov. Jim Pillen expressed hope that unborn babies soon will be protected in their state.

“The most important time and privilege for me as your governor is that we get this across the finish line, and today is the start,” Pillen said.

On the Senate floor, the debate grew emotional at some points as pro-life lawmakers shared personal experiences about unplanned pregnancies and adoptions, according to the Lincoln Journal Star. Meanwhile, pro-abortion lawmakers tried to portray the bill as dangerous and extreme while dehumanizing babies in the womb.

Here’s more from the report:

Sen. Jen Day of Gretna passed around Tic Tacs to other senators and pointed out that at six weeks’ gestation, embryos were roughly half the size of the small breath mints. She said at that gestational age, embryos do not have any definable characteristics, but rather looked like a tadpole.

That drew criticism from several senators, including Sen. Brad von Gillern of Elkhorn, who said he believed that “standing for life can never be wrong.”

“To compare my children, your children, our children, to a piece of candy?” von Gillern said. “I’m more than disappointed.”

Pro-life leaders with the Nebraska Catholic Conference said voters recognize the value of unborn babies’ lives, too.

“We are filled with great hope and joy as the Nebraska Heartbeat Act clears another hurdle. Nebraskans want greater protections for women and babies from abortion, and the Legislature has delivered in round one,” said Marion Miner, the associate director of pro-life and family policy at the conference.

Meanwhile, pro-abortion groups are lobbying aggressively to pressure lawmakers to change their minds. The Nebraska ACLU argued that the bill goes against Nebraskans’ wishes and freedoms, and politicians must reject it.

“State senators who support this near-total ban are disregarding what most Nebraskans want, ignoring clear warnings from medical professionals, and preparing to rob Nebraskans of their freedom to control their own bodies, lives and futures,” the pro-abortion legal group said.

But a January poll by WPA Intelligence found 58 percent of Nebraskans support protecting an unborn baby with a beating heart from abortion.

The pro-life legislation also has the support of the Nebraska Family Alliance, doctors and medical professionals.

During a hearing earlier this year, Dr. Robert Bonebrake, an OB-GYN and maternal fetal specialist, told lawmakers that the heartbeat bill protects both mothers’ and unborn babies’ lives, and does not hinder doctors from treating mothers with pregnancy complications, according to the Unicameral Update.

“LB626 lays out the clear standard for protecting a woman’s life and health,” Bonebrake said. “Any physician providing best medical practice is safe under this framework.”

Because the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, 14 states now are enforcing pro-life laws that prohibit or strictly limit the killing of unborn babies in abortions, and others are fighting in court to do the same. Along with Nebraska, Florida lawmakers also are debating heartbeat legislation this month.

New data this week shows tens of thousands of unborn babies were saved from abortion in the first five months after the June ruling.

ACTION ALERT: To urge support for the bill please Contact Nebraska state senators.