Abortion rights group says fight ‘far from over’ over new restrictions in Nebraska
This story was originally published in the Nebraska Examiner.
LINCOLN. Despite recent reports that anti-abortion opponents are two votes short of the overwhelming majority needed for the Nebraska Legislature to pass a heart ban, a Family Planning Department spokesman says the fight is far from over.
“We know it will be close, but we successfully blocked four abortion bans last year and we can do it again,” said Andy Currie Grubb, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Nebraska.
Curry Grubb said in a press release that the vote would come down to a “negligible margin” but abortion rights advocates believe the “dangerous” consequences of a near-total ban on abortion would cause the proposal to fail.
Andy Curry Grubb, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Nebraska. (Courtesy of the Nebraska Family Planning Advocates)
Twenty-nine senators have signed up as sponsors of the Nebraska Heartbeat Act, Legislative Bill 626. But in a 49-member legislature, 33 votes are needed to overcome the expected filibuster and pass this measure.
Anti-abortion opponents have eluded the 33-vote threshold in recent months.
But state senator Johny Albrecht of Thurston, the bill’s lead sponsor, said on Monday that two other senators, John Arch of Papillon and Ben Hansen of Blair, also support it, leaving the bill short of two out of 33. Albrecht said the other two Opponents of abortion rights, Senators Tom Brandt of Plymouth and Kristi Armendaris of Omaha, told her they wanted to listen to a floor debate before voting.
State Senator Joni Albrecht of Thurston. (Courtesy of the Unicameral Information Bureau)
Albrecht expressed confidence that Armendaris would eventually support LB 626. She added that the bill was amended to include exceptions for rape and incest due to concerns raised by Brandt.
“I am ready to accept it,” Albrecht said. “(But) I’m not sure until Tom Brandt says he’s with me.”
The 2022 election “made a difference” in the vote count, unlike past ones, she said.
LB 626 forbids abortion if the physician can detect the heartbeat of the developing embryo, usually after six weeks. Exceptions are allowed in the event of a medical emergency involving the mother, or in cases of rape or incest.
Opponents of LB 626 have called it a “near total ban” on abortion because many women do not know they are pregnant until six weeks have passed. Currently, Nebraska state law prohibits abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The Legislative Assembly Committee on Health and Human Services is expected to vote this week on the bill for debate by the full Legislature, a debate likely to last at least eight hours.
But the magic number for passing any controversial bill in the Legislative Assembly is 33 votes – a supermajority to defeat a filibuster.
Last year, a bill that would have resulted in a ban on abortion in Nebraska if the US Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion granted in Roe v. Wade failed to win two votes to stop the filibuster.
And last summer, the then governor. Pete Ricketts abandoned plans to call a special session of the state legislature to curtail abortion, saying he could not find agreement among 33 senators to do so.
A recent tally by the Flatwater Free Press also showed that LB 626 had 31 supporters, two short of the required 33.
Others were seen as possible supporters
In addition to Brandt and Armendaris, Frémont Senator Lynn Walz and Omaha Senator Justin Wayne, two Democrats in the officially non-partisan Legislature, are being considered as possible supporters. Only one Democrat has signed up as a co-sponsor of LB 626, Omaha Senator Mike McDonnell.
The only abortion-related vote held so far in the 2023 session was the Jan. 26 vote to refer the bill to the Legislative Assembly Judiciary Committee, which traditionally deals with abortion issues, rather than the Health and Human Services Committee as decided by the Reference Committee. Legislative Assembly.
The vote was 32–14 to reject an attempted re-exile by abortion rights advocate Megan Hunt, Omaha Senator, one vote short of 33. However, one opponent of abortion, Norfolk Senator Robert Dover, was absent that day.
Planned Parenthood of Advocates of Nebraska notes that a December Nebraska ACLU poll found that 59% of respondents opposed Nebraska’s “stricter abortion ban” compared to 36% of respondents who supported it.
“We stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Nebraska to ensure that abortion is safe and legal in Nebraska,” said Curry Grubb.
The Nebraska Examiner is part of Newsroom States, a network of newsrooms supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. The Nebraska Examiner maintains editorial independence. For questions, please contact editor Keith Folsom: [email protected]. Follow Nebraska Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.