The debate on the controversial “Heartbeat Bill” begins.

LINCOLN, Neb. (Nebraska) – State senators heard the controversial ‘Heartbeat Bill’ in the legislature for the first time on Wednesday.

If passed, the bill would ban performing or inducing an abortion when a heartbeat could be detected on an ultrasound, which is usually around the six-week mark.

LB 626 was introduced by Northeast Nebraska Senator Joni Albrecht early in the session. He made it his priority bill.

“It’s about one thing, protecting babies with beating hearts from abortion,” Albrecht said. “Before performing an abortion, a doctor must perform an ultrasound to check the fetal heartbeat.”

The bill was introduced to prevent abortion after detecting a heartbeat except in cases of sexual assault, incest or to save the mother’s life.

Opponents said the bill was too restrictive on professionals providing care and threatened a woman’s autonomy.

“I don’t think many people in this room would be willing to give up their ability to have choice about decisions that are very important to their lives, their bodies, their autonomy and their freedom just to have no regrets,” said La Lincoln Senator Anna Wishart.

“Including ourselves in the decision-making process, the private decisions between a woman and her doctor is not a decision I should be making,” said Omaha Sen. Tony Vargas.

Proponents argue that a heartbeat is a universal sign of life and should be protected.

“I’m very sure the ‘last of these’ would be that baby who grows and develops safely in the womb,” said Omaha Senator Kathleen Kauth. “That child has no defenses, only his mother to protect him.”

Both sides of the debate mobilized inside and outside the Capitol. Those in opposition wore green in the rotunda. Those in favor have gathered outside on the steps of the Capitol.

“We, without a doubt, have an overwhelming majority of people who are 100 percent pro-life and believe in children’s right to live,” said Governor Jim Pillen who was in attendance at the rally.

Opponents tabled a flurry of amendments and motions, one of which aims to postpone discussion of the bill indefinitely.

On Wednesday, Sen. Megan Hunt filed a separate motion to defer the bill; the decision in this regard is still pending.

There was also discussion of an amendment introduced to move the ban to 12 weeks instead of six.

Nebraska currently has a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of gestation.

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