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Neb. Gov. Expected To Sign Antiabortion Health Screening, 'Fetal Pain' Bills

Neb. Gov. Expected To Sign Antiabortion Health Screening, 'Fetal Pain' Bills

April 13, 2010 — Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) on Tuesday is expected to sign two antiabortion bills that would place the state in "uncharted legal territory," the Omaha World-Herald reports. The first bill (LB 594) -- passed by a 40-9 vote -- would require extensive mental and physical health screenings before a woman can receive an abortion. The second bill (LB 1103) would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks based on supporters' claim that fetuses can feel pain at that point. The Legislature is expected to give final passage to the second measure on Tuesday (Stoddard/Hammel, Omaha World-Herald, 4/13).

The first bill would require doctors to screen women prior to an abortion to determine whether they have been pressured into the procedure. Women also would be screened for risk factors that the bill's authors say could indicate whether they might develop physical or mental problems after an abortion. According to the AP/Yahoo! News, the risk factors likely could change over time because the bill would require doctors to screen for any "physical, psychological, emotional, demographic or situational" risk factors cited in peer-reviewed journals indexed by two major medical and scientific listing services during the year before a planned abortion. Doctors who do not complete the screenings could face civil lawsuits, but they would not face criminal charges or loss of their licenses.

Abortion-rights advocates argue that the bill is a dramatic policy shift that would restrict access to abortion by intimidating providers, the AP/Yahoo! News reports. State Sen. Brad Ashford -- one of only nine senators to vote against the measure -- said the bill is "too vague," adding, "I don't know if a physician faced with civil action can know all the risk factors" cited in medical journals (Jenkins, AP/Yahoo! News, 4/12). Kyle Carlson, an attorney for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said, "It's very difficult to know for certain if you're complying with this bill." He added, "There's an undetermined amount of documentation you have to go through to know all the ... risk factors" (Jenkins, AP/Atlanta Journal Constitution, 4/12).