What’s the future of the abortion ban in the Nebraska Legislature?

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – A proposed abortion ban failed by just one vote on Thursday, but there’s a small chance it could return to the floor this year.

The Nebraska Heartbeat Act hit a roadblock in the Capitol when Sen. Merv Riepe declined to vote to end the filibuster.

“It’s just a disappointing day,” said Sen. Robert Clements, who voted in favor of the bill. “But I just regret that we’ve worked so hard and came so close.”

But he said abortion opponents will “try again in the future.”

Sen. Joni Albrecht introduced LB 626, which would ban abortion after cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks of pregnancy.

She called for a cloture vote to end the filibuster, but Riepe’s lack of a vote effectively killed the bill, leaving proponents just one vote short of the 33 they needed.

Riepe had proposed an amendment that would have changed the bill to a 12-week ban.

“Sen. Riepe was really not telling us what his plan was,” Clements said. “Had he insisted on 12 weeks, it could have been adopted. I was in the dark. I think all of us were in the dark as to how he was going to vote. So we didn’t really have an opportunity to negotiate.”

Normally, if a bill fails to pass cloture, the speaker of the Legislature would reschedule the bill for another debate.

But Speaker John Arch announced at the beginning of the legislative session that he would not do that, unless it is a priority bill.

While the Nebraska Heartbeat Act is Albrecht’s priority bill, Arch’s office reiterated Thursday that he would not reschedule bills that fail to invoke cloture.

With that, it seems the only way forward would be for Riepe to have a change of mind.

“I doubt that he will reschedule it, but I’m sure he will be asked,” Clements said. “Possibly if Sen. Riepe asks him to do that, that might change his mind.”

Gov. Jim Pillen called on Riepe to “make a motion to reconsider and stand by the commitments of life he has made in the past.”

For those against the bill, the vote was a big win.

“We always knew that there was a window for this outcome, that this was possible,” Sen. Megan Hunt said. “That we have colleagues in the Nebraska Legislature who still believe in science, who still believe our physicians and health care professionals in Nebraska.”

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