By a vote of 38-5 the Nebraska Legislature has moved to outlaw abortions 20 weeks after conception based on the argument that at that point in time the fetus can feel pain. Although the bill has to clear two more rounds of debate and be signed by the Governor before it becomes law, there is no indication the legislation will be derailed.
While opponents claim the bill is clearly unconstitutional, Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood who is pushing the legislation said his plan, “doesn’t ban all abortions…and provides a middle ground” in a national debate that is several decades old.
State Senator Danielle Conrad of Lincoln, the main critic of Flood’s bill, said Nebraska’s legislation goes where no state has successfully gone before. Conrad says the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has already rejected a 20 week old abortion ban adopted in Utah.
According to the latest report from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services in 2008 there were 2,813 abortions in the state, 332 more than 2007. The report also notes that 109 of the abortions in 2008 were performed before the fetus reached 20 weeks. The report does not detail when in the gestation period the remaining 2,704 abortions from that year occurred.
During Tuesday’s late night debate State Senator Brad Ashford of Omaha, who describes himself as pro-choice, argued that Flood is right. “There is no question there is fetal pain,” said Ashford, the Chairman of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee. According to Ashford, “There is no question a 20 week old fetus can be saved.”
State Senator Brenda Council of Omaha told her fellow lawmakers the bill has no chance of passing constitutional muster. “This bill has so many problems I don’t know where to begin,” said Council.
According to published reports most states including Nebraska ban abortion after a fetus has reached viability, which quite often is the 24th week after conception.
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Reported by Joe Jordan, firstname.lastname@example.org