Albrecht’s pro-life bills a priority and a passion
When first asked to sponsor pro-life legislation, Nebraska state Sen. Joni Albrecht knew God had already given her the strength to say yes.
Albrecht, who has represented Nebraska’s 17th legislative district since 2017, is currently sponsoring her third pro-life bill in three years. Her pro-life convictions stem from experience.
Albrecht’s granddaughter Greeley, now 7, was born with a rare congenital heart disease. Albrecht’s daughter Cortney knew when she was 18 weeks pregnant that her child had a serious heart condition. She carried the baby nearly to term. Doctors then performed a Cesarean section and Greeley went right onto an ECMO machine, said Albrecht.
ECMO stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. The treatment uses a pump to circulate blood through an artificial lung back into the bloodstream.
“She took four breaths and went into cardiac arrest,” Albrecht said. It took doctors 16 minutes to revive her and the ECMO machine ultimately saved her life, she said.
Since then, Greeley has had five open-heart surgeries. She receives ongoing treatment, and although she cannot do everything a typical 7-year-old can do, she is finishing first grade in public school this year.
Witnessing her granddaughter’s struggle has helped Albrecht understand the strife of women with medically challenging pregnancies.
The experience prepared her to sponsor her first pro-life bill, LB506, the Compassion and Care for Medically Challenging Pregnancies Act, which she introduced in January 2017. The bill mandated the disclosure of information about perinatal hospice and palliative care to mothers whose children were diagnosed with a fetal anomaly.
The legislature passed the bill 49-0 on April 24, 2017, and Gov. Pete Ricketts signed the legislation into law two days later.
A year later, she sponsored another pro-life bill, LB1040, that required the state to provide women who had miscarried before 20 weeks of pregnancy commemorative certificates of nonviable birth in memory of their children. Before LB1040, Nebraska only offered birth certificates for stillbirths that occurred at or after 20 weeks of gestation.
The legislature passed the bill on April 11, 2018, on a vote of 44-1 and it was signed into law on April 18 of that year.
The senator also had personal experience related to this legislation, having gone through a miscarriage herself.
“There’s a reason that I’ve walked my walk with the Lord, and I knew that I’d be able to carry that one, too, because I’d been there,” she said.
Marion Miner, associate director for pro-life and family at the Nebraska Catholic Conference (NCC), the public policy voice for the three Catholic dioceses in Nebraska, appreciates working with Albrecht to pass pro-life legislation.
“She’s a sincere Christian. Her faith is very important to her and it shows in the way she goes about her work, in the type of legislation she introduces and just in the way that she carries herself,” he said.
Albrecht is a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Emerson. She also participates in a weekly pro-life Bible study at the Capitol with about a dozen other senators.
For the 2019 legislative session, Albrecht has made LB209, the Abortion Pill Reversal Information Act, her priority bill, giving it precedence over other bills in debate.
According to the NCC’s website, the bill would “add a new section to Nebraska’s informed consent law to inform a woman that it may be possible to reverse a medication abortion if she changes her mind, and would give her information so she can connect with a local medical professional who is trained in abortion pill reversal.”
“I do believe when a woman walks into a clinic and they’re going to have an abortion, they need to have all the options available to them,” Albrecht said.
“I think a lot of them do leave (the clinic) thinking, ‘Am I doing the right thing?’ They need to know what’s ahead of them, and if they want to change their mind, they need to know that they have the ability to do so,” she said.
LB209 made it out of the Judiciary Committee on April 23. The first debate on the legislature floor took place April 29. In addition to Albrecht, 25 other senators have signed on to co-sponsor the bill. It will need 33 votes to pass.
Before her election to the Nebraska Unicameral in 2016, Albrecht served on the Papillion City Council and the Sarpy County Board of Commissioners.
She initially got involved with the city council after working on the successful mayoral campaign of Donnie Brandt in the late 1990s. Brandt had two years left to serve on the city council and suggested that Albrecht take his spot. Brandt brought Albrecht’s name before the council, and she was unanimously chosen to replace him in 1998. She successfully ran for re-election in 2000 and 2004.
During her years on the council, Papillion was the fastest–growing city in Nebraska, Albrecht said. “We were just a bedroom community, and we had to expand out to get a sales tax base so we could start to grow,” she said.
The council ensured that the city stayed within its budget authority as it developed departments necessary to city government, such as public works and recreation. “Over an 8-year period, I watched it go from cobblestone streets and dirt roads to a metropolis,” she said. “It was just amazing what we were able to accomplish in a very short time.”
In 2006, she won election to the Sarpy County Board as one of five commissioners.
As with the city of Papillion, Sarpy County was the fastest-growing county in the state during her time in office. Two of her major projects were the construction of Shadow Lake Towne Center and Werner Park, home of the Omaha Storm Chasers minor league baseball team.
CARING AND COMMITTED
Whatever office she has held, faith and family values have grounded her service, Albrecht said. One of her colleagues, former state Sen. Lydia Brasch, attested to Albrecht’s character.
“She is a tireless worker,” said Brasch. “She is a wonderful representative and woman who puts God, family and values first and foremost in her duties, responsibilities and actions.”
Brasch and Albrecht represented neighboring districts 16 and 17 in the state legislature in 2017 and 2018. During that time, Brasch served as an informal mentor to Albrecht. She was finishing eight years in the Unicameral as Albrecht was beginning her first two.
“I tried to help answer all of her questions. She learned from me and I also learned from her,” Brasch said.
As the current legislative session concludes, Albrecht is hopeful for a third consecutive pro-life victory with the passage of LB209. Senators carry different bills, and each is at the Capitol for a specific reason, she said.
“This is my season to carry those bills for the unborn,” said Albrecht. “I told my husband, ‘If this is the only reason I’m down here, to save a life and be there for these mothers, I’m in.’”