Nebraska to pass extreme, first-of-its-kind anti-choice bill

Actually, make that two. Nebraska Republican Governor Dave Heineman said that he plans to sign legislation today which would require doctors to screen women for mental and physical problems that could pose as a “risk” after getting an abortion. In short, abortion providers in Nebraska are completely fucked. The other bill to be passed later this week would be the first to ban a mental health exception for late term abortions.
And that’s just the beginning of these clusterfuck bills of contradictions. If bill LB594 is passed, doctors would not only be forced to inform women seeking abortion of the mental and physical risks within 24 hours of the procedure, but also are required to make an assessment of whether they were coerced to have an abortion or hold those “risk factors” — and would be required to tell them so. So after “assessing” whether their patient is being coerced to have an abortion, they’re basically being forced to coerce them to not have one.
The other piece of legislation, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (LB1103), would ban certain late-term abortions based on the assertion that a fetus can feel pain — and is a direct aim at Dr. Leroy Carhart, one of the only late-term providers left in the country who holds his clinic in Omaha, NE. The bill would also be the first to bar women from citing mental health problems as a reason to have an abortion after 20 weeks — which is funny considering they’re so concerned with the mental health of the patient before 20 weeks.
The blatant anti-choice and ableist implications in these bills are just atrocious. Not only will some women be forced to carry their pregnancies to term with no mental health exception, but doctors will be terrified to perform abortions in fear of not correctly adhering to these obscure screening rules. WaPo reports:

The bill is unusual, however, in spelling out what doctors must look for. They include any risk factors cited in peer-reviewed journals indexed by two major medical and scientific listing services during the year before a planned abortion. The risks could be “physical, psychological, emotional, demographic, or situational,” according to the bill.
“It’s very difficult to know for certain if you’re complying with this bill,” said Kyle Carlson, an attorney for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. “There’s an undetermined amount of documentation you have to go through to know all the…risk factors.”

While it should be comforting to know both bills will be challenged in court, this is what anti-choicers want; LB1103 was created for the sole purpose of being challenged and brought to the Supreme Court.
Julie Burkhart has info on what you can do. Think Progress and RH Reality Check have more details.

Join the Conversation

  • southern students for choice

    There are so many things to critique here it’s hard to know where to begin. One key concept here is obviously that doctors have to document (from the Washington Post article linked to above):

    “any risk factors cited in peer-reviewed journals indexed by two major medical and scientific listing services during the year before a planned abortion. The risks could be “physical, psychological, emotional, demographic, or situational,” according to the bill.”

    One of the the first thing that ought to be asked is what (or who) determines what is a “peer reviewed journal”? Peers of whom? Will these authorities be recognized by the mainstream of the American Psychological Assocation (APA) or American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), for example, or maybe more likely it will be argued that there should be included a handful of researchers citied by antis as supporting pseudoscientific concepts like “post-abortion syndrome (PAS)”?
    Also, the “risk factors” which could be included pretty much includes everything that could be a potential stressor in one’s life, including changing jobs, trying to help a loved one in distress, or even economic factors. Oh, and some feminists might add that having had especially bad experiences being discriminated against or otherwise harmed or threatened because one is female is pretty distressing too.
    It’s surprising they didn’t include economic factors, because it’s pretty well known that losing one’s job or being in economic distress can precipitate psychological problems like anxiety or depression, and the economy post-year-2000/dot-com bust/9-11 has been pretty bad for a lot of people for nearly 10 years now. Also, one has to wonder if other cognitive or learning disorders could be included, like Asperger’s syndrome (mild autism), if someone argues that those disorders might more incline one to some sort of greater negative effect from having an abortion, or to not seem help without some sort of paternalistic oversight?
    It’s also not clear what doctors should do with this information once they collect it besides use it to discourage the woman from having an abortion, and if she does have a tendency to depression, for example, just pointing out to her what may be seen as some sort of weakness – especially if those risk factors or supposed vulnerabilities includes bogus concepts like PAS may mean she’s less likely to receive appropriate care if she does need help.
    Sounds like this bill — or bills like this, as this seems to set some precedent — pretty much declares open season on what access there might be for elective abortion for women with a lot of stress in their lives, or who have any sort of history of mild mental illness — and it’s been a running joke among psychologists and psychiatrists for about 100 years that pretty much everyone could be said to have some sort of mental disorder if one looks closely enough or puts that person under enough situational stress.

  • Comrade Kevin

    The assumptions in this bill are as numerous as they are offensive.
    Let me say here that any woman seeking an abortion is probably feeling emotionally overwhelmed from the beginning. But to imply that she must certainly be mentally ill to want to go through with the procedure, or to imply that mentally ill women must be protected from themselves is overreaching to a ridiculous degree.
    The bill is worded as though there must certainly be some epidemic of mentally ill women seeking abortions that must be stopped at all cost. Any bill that treats those with mental illness as though they are somehow incapable of making proper decisions for themselves is something I take special offense to, but in this context, it’s just an excuse to pass a sweeping anti-choice bill.

  • cattrack2

    Question: Is it true that fetuses feel pain after 20 weeks?

  • rebekah

    okay, I just want to point out that there is an abortion clinic in Albuquerque NM who are performing late term abortions, you can find them here:
    At least this is another option for those who are trying to find a clinic

  • Brianna G

    I HATE how anti-choicers approach mental illness in pregnancy.
    It’s like they think a mentally ill pregnant woman will suffer greatly from an abortion, or she’s lying and not really mentally ill and just wants an excuse to kill her baby. They totally neglect the possibility that pregnancy could be traumatic– indeed, they clearly think that pregnancy will “fix” the mentally ill woman who might have gotten an abortion, that it will improve their life– at least over the alternative.
    I am oh so strongly reminded of the ancient Greeks, who believed any behavioral problem in a woman (mental illness or just not completely normative) would be fixed by pregnancy, so the answer to a depressed or rebellious woman was to marry her off and get her pregnant.
    Do these people actually know what pregnancy IS? Have they ever seen a woman dealing with hormones in pregnancy? Have they ever encountered PPD? And they want women who ALREADY have emotional problems to undergo one of the most emotionally charged and sometimes emotionally tragic event imaginable, while (for many) knowing they will wind up with a child with health problems due to the medications they had to take (or worse, going OFF meds to do it).
    They seem to live in a fantasy world where pregnant women sit at home relaxing, not doing much of anything strenuous except maybe watching the older kids and cooking, and just gets fatter and rosier, then pops out a perfect healthy child who smiles and coos and lets them sleep all they want, and their body snaps back to normal immediately. I mean, at a certain point you have to wonder if they even paid attention to their OWN wives when pregnant!
    Good news is, I suspect this will be slapped down pretty quickly by the Supreme Court, if they see the case at all– they might decide to let a lower court slap it down and let it stand. See, the problem is that these legislators want it to pass because they think they will win– and they won’t.

  • Brianna G

    Yes, they can. Pain receptors develop in the body between week 8 and week 16. By week 20, they are all connected to the pain centers in the brain. After 19 weeks, a fetus can respond to painful stimuli– they withdraw and their vital signs will reflect the pain like an adult’s would after they are stabbed with a needle.
    That said, that doesn’t really mean anything. First of all, an abortion is not remotely painful for a fetus– they are injected with a drug that painlessly stops their heart before anything else happens. So it is irrelevant to the humanity of the procedure.
    Second of all, feeling pain and responding to it does not make something a person or sentient. After all, a clam can feel pain. Pretty much anything with a nervous system at all can feel pain and respond to it. Thus, unless they are prepared to say one becomes human when one feels pain, so clams are human and people with disorders that prevent feeling pain are not, it’s a useless benchmark for that.
    Now, there are other reasons to object to abortion that could be rational– say, “this is when the frontal lobe starts to function” or heck, I would even accept anything with human DNA and a heartbeat, since we legally define the end of a heartbeat as death. I don’t agree, of course, but those make SOME sense. Pain is a completely irrational benchmark, and of course has nothing to do with the procedure itself, which is completely painless for the fetus.
    It would be irrelevant anyway, because the fetus’ rights, if it had any, would not trump the mother’s.

  • Brianna G

    By the way, the nerve cells of the brain only come together to work in concert, and thus to think as we think of it, starting at week 23, with most of the brain development occurring much later, between weeks 29 and 40. So even though the fetus will react physically and hormonally to the pain at 20 weeks, it’s really an unconscious reaction, like how you pull your hand away from a hot stove before your brain processes that you’re in pain. It will take several weeks after that before the fetus can actually react to the pain as we think of reacting (ie, thinking that something hurts).

  • Jjuliaava

    This is a MOST DISTURBING LEGISLATION! It serves as proof that women are second-class citizens.

  • TabloidScully

    Not to mention how broadly “mental illness” can be defined. For example, post-traumatic stress disorder is considered a mental illness. So now we’ll have a slew of women, pregnant courtesy of abusers and rapists, who will be forced to carry the pregnancy to term because they have PTSD from suffering a sexual violation.
    Because when you’re a survivor in the throes of recovering from sexual violence, what you need even more than body autonomy is a squalling bundle in diapers carrying the DNA of the person who put you in that position in the first place. The same person, by the way, who has the presumption of innocence while you have the presumption of guilt, and good luck getting any financial assistance from the broken Crime Victims’ Compensation, especially if you didn’t report it.

  • Blue Collar Todd

    It seems that most people agree that one’s actions can be justly limited when it causes harm to someone else. This is the principle that is being applied here. In the objection to the bill in question you must offer a response as when one can feel pain. If you do not like the 20-24 week mark, then when is it? Unfortunately we cannot look to Planned Parenthood for an answer since they have been shown to repeatedly lie about this, denying simple science about the development of the unborn.

  • Pantheon

    Can anyone think of an example of something that would make abortion be a health risk that would not also make continuing the pregnancy an even bigger health risk?
    e.g., if you have some health condition that makes abortion dangerous, wouldn’t childbirth be even more dangerous?

  • Brianna G

    I wonder if they still have a rape exception. I think it’s pretty hard for them to get rid of that since it has so much popular support.

  • Brianna G

    Certain women with heart, kidney, or liver problems or who need anti-clotting meds can’t have a medicinal abortion. Really high blood pressure, anemia, serious infections etc can also make the abortion pill dangerous.
    Certain very serious conditions may require a hysterotomy or hysterectomy instead of a normal abortion.
    In answer to your question– no. There is no medical condition where it is safer to give birth than have an abortion, though certain medical conditions will change the kind of abortion one can have.

  • cattrack2

    Thanks, Brianna. I didn’t know fetuses felt pain but its comforting to know they’re given something to relieve the pain.
    “It would be irrelevant anyway, because the fetus’ rights, if it had any, would not trump the mother’s.”
    As far as this I think it entirely depends on when you think Life begins. I support late term abortion & don’t happen to think life begins at that stage, but I recognize that its a subjective/religious question.

  • SemilyM

    In the spirit of Nebraska Bill LB594, I would like to propose an alternate bill:
    The American Child Protection Act
    In order to promote the health, safety, and welfare of all children:
    All aspiring parents will be required to submit to an evaluation in order to have a child.
    To be eligible to carry a pregnancy to term, women will be required to demonstrate that they are of sound mind and healthy body and that they free of risk factors for postpartum depression that could potentially jeopardize the health and safety of the child.
    If there is to be a partner in parenting, they must pass a relationship skills class and submit adequate documentation and witness testimony that the relationship is healthy and respectful with no history of abuse or warning signs of potential abuse. All aspiring parents’ childhoods will be scrutinized for past abuse that could indicate the possibility of a continuing cycle of violence or neglect.
    Aspiring parent(s) must demonstrate that they are of adequate financial means to support the child and have current health insurance with maternity coverage. Aspiring parents must verify that they and/or their partner in parenting will have adequate maternity/paternity leave to care for the infant, as well as flexibility at work to meet the continuing needs of raising a child.
    If the aspiring parent is already pregnant, the evaluator must verify beyond a reasonable doubt that the aspiring parent is pregnant by their own volition, that they consented to the sexual activity that resulted in the pregnancy, that their birth control was not sabotaged or rendered ineffective by drug interactions, that they were not denied contraceptives due to economic or other barriers, that they were provided with medically accurate information relevant to preventing pregnancy, and that they are not being coerced to carry the pregnancy to term.
    Additionally, witnesses will be called to attest that the potential parent(s) are sufficiently mature and capable of parenting.
    Any person who fails to meet ALL of the above criteria will be denied the opportunity to birth and/or raise a child.

  • IAmGopherrr

    I agree. I think thats incredibly disgusting and very ableist. Its should be tossed, especially since it discriminates against those with mental illness.

  • IAmGopherrr

    “they withdraw and their vital signs will reflect the pain like an adult’s would after they are stabbed with a needle”
    But they may not feel pain just a response to external stimuli.Isnt it true that their brain isnt developed yet? This is needed in order to feel and interpret pain.

  • IAmGopherrr

    Regarding third trimester abortions….when I was looking on the internet a while ago I remember reading a pro-women (not an anti-choice one)site that said that under Roe v Wade, abortion in the third trimester isnt allowed except for medical/physical reasons. I didnt know that. So all those fetus pics that the antis lob around; those are probably pics of either dead fetuses who were already dead or had severe malformations and wouldve suffered if born. Where the hell do they get those pics anyways?

  • makomk

    Please don’t suggest such a thing, even in satire. It’s only good satire if the idea is so ridiculous and wrong-headed that it would never happen. What you’re proposing unfortunately isn’t. In fact, it’s actually happened before to a certain extent – women in the US who are alive today were forcibly sterilised without their consent or knowlege because they were considered too irresponsible to raise a child due to mental illness, poverty, or just plain getting pregnant at too young an age.

  • Vermin Jerky

    I’ve never heard about this. Any chance of getting more information about this forced sterilization? I’m both appalled and curious.