Abortion Moves To The States: Nebraska Passes Bill Designed To Discourage Doctors From Providing Abortions

nebraska sealEarlier today, Nebraska lawmakers gave final approval to LB594, legislation that would require providers to inform women of any and all potential risk factors associated with abortion — including any physical, psychological, emotional, demographic, or situational factors — at least 24 hours before performing the procedure. At least one hour before the procedure, the legislation requires that a qualified provider assess whether the pregnant woman was being pressured into having an abortion, and evaluate “physical, psychological, emotional, demographic, or situational” risk factors cited by peer-reviewed medical journals. “This is just a legal way to harass doctors,” CAP’s Jessica Arons said about the bill. “It’s another way to chill the provision of abortion services, because who is going to want to perform these abortions if a woman can later change her mind and sue them?”

The legislation is unique in the amount of detail it includes. “Except in the case of an emergency situation, consent to an abortion is voluntary and informed only if: (1) The woman is told the following by the physician…at least twenty-four hours before the abortion”:

(a) The particular medical risks associated with the particular abortion procedure to be employed including, when medically accurate, the risks of infection, hemorrhage, perforated uterus, danger to subsequent pregnancies, and infertility;

(b) The probable gestational age of the unborn child at the time the abortion is to be performed;

(c) The medical risks associated with carrying her child to term; and

(d) That she cannot be forced or required by anyone to have an abortion and is free to withhold or withdraw her consent for an abortion. […]

(3) If an ultrasound is used prior to the performance of an abortion, the physician who is to perform the abortion, the referring physician…shall….Simultaneously display the ultrasound images so that the woman may choose to view the ultrasound images or not view the ultrasound images. The woman shall be informed that the ultrasound images will be displayed so that she is able to view them….If the woman requests information about the displayed ultrasound image, her questions shall be answered […]

The most condescending portion of the legislation is the section dealing with the legal recourse for providers who don’t follow the above requirements. “Except in the case of an emergency situation, if a pregnant woman is provided with the information required by section 28-327 less than twenty-four hours before her scheduled abortion, the physician shall bear the burden of proving that the pregnant woman had sufficient reflection time, given her age, maturity, emotional state, and mental capacity, to comprehend and consider such information.” Moreover, the bill “does not sufficiently put physicians on notice for what they must screen for and might be liable for,” Arons says. “Under this bill, a doctor would have to screen a woman for a ‘risk factor’ even if it appeared only once in the medical literature and even if there is no medical consensus that it’s a genuine risk.”

Last week, Nebraska passed another bill (LB1103) aimed at shutting down one of the country’s few late-term abortion providers. That measure “asserts that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks of pregnancy” and “would be the first nationally to bar women from citing mental health problems as a reason to have an abortion after 20 weeks.” The legislation “sailed through the second of three votes needed for it to become law” on Friday and is expected to pass later this week.

The bill is “created almost entirely as a vehicle for getting anti-choice legislation challenged and potentially reviewed by the Supreme Court,” RH Reality Check’s Robin Marty observes. “Unlike every other anti-choice law that has so far passed in this country, LB 1103 refuses to provide an exemption for a mother’s mental health, regardless of the fact that prior to 20 weeks a pregnant woman’s mental health was so valuable that the state wants to advocate mandatory screenings to protect it.”