Nebraska abortion ban likely dead for this legislative session

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – A proposed abortion ban will not be going forward in the Nebraska Legislature this year.

The motion to invoke cloture, which would allow senators to vote on the bill, failed by one vote on Thursday.

Legislative Bill 626 would have banned abortion after cardiac activity is detected, which is typically around six weeks.

State Sen. Joni Albrecht, who introduced the bill, said the goal is to protect babies from elective abortions.

“This is the friendliest pro-life law for doctors in this entire country,” Albrecht said.  “There are no criminal penalties, and doctors are given wide latitude to exercise their medical judgment.”

Sen. Dave Murman spoke in support of the bill during debate, saying a society that doesn’t support women and families is doomed to fail.

“This bill is definitely not anti-women, but actually, it’s pro women,” he said. “Also, LB 626 is not racist. A disproportionate number of abortions are done on people of color. I really can’t understand how especially people of color cannot be pro-life.”

Sen. Terrell McKinney of north Omaha, who is Black, spoke against the bill and responded to Murman’s comments.

“As a man, I don’t believe it’s my right or my duty to make a vote to tell a woman what or what not to do with her body,” he said. “I thought it was very convenient to pull the people of color card. Really if this state or this nation really cared about people of color or Black people, my district wouldn’t be as impoverished as it is for my whole lifetime.”

Sen. George Dungan, who opposes the measure, said lawmakers should be listening to the experts, not anecdotes.

“Time and time again, we have the experts come to us and explain to us that there are problems with things that we’re trying to do, and we ignore that in the name of anecdotes,” Dungan said. “I think we’re doing a disservice to the people of Nebraska.”

Sen. Megan Hunt said lawmakers have no right to come between women and their doctors.

“Forced birth is evil, and a legitimate government would never compel a person to do that,” she said.

Early on in the debate, State Sen. Merv Riepe – who previously supported the bill – filed an amendment that would ban abortions after 12 weeks.  But senators did not vote on the amendment.

“My goal is for sustainable legislation that is not problematic,” Riepe said.  “Abortion has become more than a medical procedure or two pharmaceutical pills.”

SEE ALSO: ‘I’m not gonna be popular on either side’: Cosponsor of Nebraska’s proposed abortion ban suggests change

The amendment would also add exemptions for fetal anomalies and sexual assault.

“In an ideal world, every child would have the opportunity to live, thrive and experience a fulfilling life,” Riepe said.  “However, we must acknowledge we do not live in a utopian society, and we face challenges in life.”

On Thursday, he voted against invoking cloture.  The Legislature then adjourned for the day.

Typically, when a cloture vote fails, it doesn’t kill the bill; it just delays the vote.

But this session, Speaker of the Legislature John Arch said he would not reschedule bills that do not pass cloture unless they’re priority bills.

LB 626 is Albrecht’s priority bill, but it’s not clear that Arch will reschedule it.

The bill could be debated in the next legislative session.

Gov. Jim Pillen issued a statement following the cloture vote.

“I am a staunch defender of Life and support of the Nebraska Heartbeat Act,” Pillen said in the release. “I am profoundly disappointed in the cloture vote today. It is unacceptable for senators to be present not voting on such a momentous vote. I call on Senator Merv Riepe to make a motion to reconsider and stand by the commitments to Life he has made in the past.”

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