The Nebraska Attorney General is defending a new pro-life law in court from a Planned Parenthood lawsuit.
Last month, the Nebraska legislature voted to protect unborn babies from abortion at 12 weeks gestation by adopting the “Preborn Child Protection Act,” which was previously added as an amendment to LB 574. Nebraska legislators voted 33-15 to pass the Let Them Grow Act that eliminates elective painful, late-term abortions in the state and saves babies at the point when their hearts have beat over 10 million times.
Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen signed the bill into law and, immediately afterwards, the nation’s biggest abortion business filed a lawsuit against it.
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit claiming the new law violates the Nebraska Constitution, which states that “no bill shall contain more than one subject, and the subject shall be clearly expressed in the title.”
The legislature has been passing multi-subject bills for years without any legal concerns and Nebraska Attorney General’s Office noted that in a court filing — saying the abortion giant is trying “to tell the Nebraska Legislature how to do its job.”
In a 27-page legal brief filed Thursday night, the Attorney General’s Office says the lawsuit seeking to block Legislative Bill 574 would “undermine” years of practices in the Legislature and should be dismissed.
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A Lincoln judge has scheduled a court hearing at 10 a.m. Monday, via Zoom, to hear arguments about whether the lawsuit should be dismissed or be allowed to proceed.
The Attorney General’s Office, in its brief Thursday night, offered four reasons why the lawsuit should be thrown out and why a request should be denied to temporarily block implementation of LB 574:
- The plaintiffs, which include a physician and a health clinic, have not shown that they would be harmed by the new law and are advancing “political disagreements” that do not rise to “injuries in fact.”
- The single-subject rule is a “liberal standard.” The AG’s brief cites a 1967 ruling by the Nebraska Supreme Court in a lawsuit over a tax law: “If an act has but one general object, no matter how broad that object may be, and contains no matter not germane thereto . . . it does not violate [the single-subject rule].” In addition, the state’s lawyers said that provisions of LB 574 both relate to “health and welfare” and prescribe duties for the state’s Cchief medical officer.
- The lawsuit is barred by “sovereign immunity,” the concept that the state cannot be sued, a common law doctrine based on the idea that “the king” cannot face a lawsuit.
- Plaintiffs are asking the court to litigate the legislative process, not whether the contents of LB 574 violated the single-subject rule.
If the court took up that issue, the AG’s brief said, it would “result in an unprecedented upheaval of Nebraska’s legislative and judicial branches,” casting doubt on “hundreds of Nebraska laws.”
“Plaintiffs’ grievance is to the legislative process, not to the bill,” the brief stated. “Plaintiffs have suffered no cognizable injury, lack standing, and, ultimately, fail to meet the high bar to declare L.B. 574 unconstitutional.”
Pillen, who pushed for the bill and met with various lawmakers to support it, said he was pleased to sign the bill.
“Its an extraordinary privilege to be a part of answering prayers that have been going on for 50 years,” he said. “We’re standing up to protect our kids so our state and our kids have a brighter future.”
“This bill is a part of what certainly will be a historic legislative session. It’s all about protecting our kids,” he added.
Pillen said, “The bill is simply two things. It’s about protecting our kids and saving babies. It bans abortions after 12 weeks. It’s the first piece of legislation to save babies in Nebraska in decades.”
“The abortion ban is law this second,” he said after signing.
An emergency clause was also included which allows the law to go into effect once he signs the measure.
SBA Pro-Life America’s Western Regional Director Adam Schwend told LifeNews he was elated by the news.
“Nebraska has taken a significant step forward for life. Three hundred lives will be protected each year through the Let Them Grow Act. Each of these children will bless countless others by being a son or daughter, grandchild, friend, classmate and colleague, and Nebraska will be better off through the lives they will be allowed to live,” he said.
“Gov. Pillen is a bold pro-life leader who does not waver in the face of adversity or vocal minority opposition. We thank the governor and the 33 legislators who showed the resolve to get this legislation to the finish line, with special thanks to Sen. Albrecht, Sen. Hansen and Sen. Kauth. This law marks progress in Nebraska where we will continue the fight for life,” he added.
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“Our hope was to pass protection for beating hearts in the womb, detectable at about six weeks, with the Nebraska Heartbeat Act, but that failed to advance beyond the filibuster mounted by opponents,” said Sandy Danek, Executive Director of Nebraska Right to Life. “While this law allows unlimited abortions for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, it is still more limiting than the law that has been in place since 2010, the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.”
Based on the Nebraska 2021 Statistical Report of Abortions, 2,360 abortions were performed, 2,195 of which took place before 12 weeks gestation.
“Unfortunately, since approximately 90% of abortions occur before 12 weeks, that’s still so many lives being lost,” said Danek. “We will continue to work, as we have for more than 50 years, to
protect all Nebraska preborn babies.”
Senators previously successfully overcame a filibuster on a 33-14 vote for the amendment, which allowed the bill to advance.
The pro-life legislation came after one republican lawmaker sold out the lives of unborn children and blocked a bill to protect them at 6 weeks.
Republican Sen. Merv Riepe had cosponsored a 6-week measure to protect babies from abortion when their heartbeat can be detected. He even attended a recent pro-life rally for the bill where he stood behind pro-life leaders urging lawmakers to protect babies from abortions.
But last week, Riepe sold out the pro-life cause and the lives of thousands of babies and their moms and abstained from voting on the measure. That allowed a Democrat filibuster of the bill to prevail – making it so thousands of babies will continue to be killed in abortions until the legislature can try again next year.
Although pro-life groups were disappointed by the defeat of the heartbeat law protecting babies, they supported the 12-week measure to protect as many unborn children as possible.
“We were caught off guard by Senator Merv Riepe’s non-vote, given that he chose to co-sponsor the bill, serves on the Health and Human Services Committee and voted to advance the bill out of committee, and then voted to advance the bill on the first round of debate,” said Sandy Danek, executive director of Nebraska Right to Life.
“Amendment 1658, the Preborn Child Protection Act, is an attempt to ban abortions in Nebraska at 12 weeks and will be attached to LB574, the ‘Let Them Grow Act,” Nebraska Right to Life wrote. “While we are extremely disappointed the Nebraska Heartbeat Act did not advance because of one ‘present, not voting”, a 12-week protection would still save the lives of Nebraska preborn children.”
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 month, 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.
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 shows tens of thousands of unborn babies were saved from abortion in the first five months after the June ruling.
The advancement of protections in North Carolina, South Carolina and Nebraska mirror the pro-life momentum seen in other states during the 2023 legislative session season. Montana, this month, established new laws to prevent taxpayer funded abortions, require abortionists to report women harmed by abortion pills, protect the lives of abortion survivors and require the licensing of abortion facilities. North Dakota Gov. Burgum signed a measure protecting babies at all stages. Florida Gov. DeSantis signed a heartbeat law in April. A Wyoming measure prohibiting dangerous abortion pills was also recently signed.