PHOTO COURTESY OF NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

Commentary

FAITHFUL, WATCHFUL CITIZENS: More work to do in wake of Roe reversal

Most readers of the Catholic Voice will remember that last spring the Nebraska Legislature fell just two votes short of passing a law that would have, from the moment of conception, provided protection for preborn babies from elective abortion. That bill (LB933) was forward-looking in nature; it would have come into effect if and when the U.S. Supreme Court ever overruled Roe v. Wade.

Of course, that long-awaited day did finally come – on June 24, the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade. This was (and will for all time be) a joyous day. But because of our failure to pass LB933 in the spring, Nebraska was not adequately prepared for that day in law.

Governor Pete Ricketts and Speaker Mike Hilgers signaled then that they would pursue the idea of calling the Legislature back into special session in the summer to enact stronger protections as soon as possible. About six weeks after the Dobbs decision, Governor Ricketts announced that this special session would not occur.

This decision was of necessity – in Nebraska’s unicameral system, we have a uniquely high bar to overcome a filibuster, needing 33 of 49 votes to pass legislation that a minority of senators are determined to block. Speaker Hilgers circulated a letter asking senators if they would come back to pass a law that would protect preborn babies at 12 weeks (adding an additional eight weeks of protection to Nebraska’s current law). 

Thirty of 49 senators signed the letter in support of entering a special session – a percentage (60% +) high enough to overcome a filibuster if we were talking about the U.S. Senate, but three short of what we need to pass a bill into law in the Nebraska Legislature. Calling a special session under those circumstances – knowing the bill would not pass – would have been an exercise in futility. (The speaker’s letter, including the names of the senators who supported calling a special session for greater protections, is publicly available on the governor’s website.)

That leads us back to where we are now: Nebraska, a pro-life state with a history of showing the nation the way, has now fallen behind. Despite having the authority to provide full protection for preborn babies in the law, we still allow abortions for any reason up to 20 weeks after fertilization. At that stage babies can hiccup, kick, swallow, feel pain, and even sometimes survive outside the womb.

Of nations across the world 75% do not allow abortions after 12 weeks; 90% of nations do not allow them after 15 weeks. Our 20-week law puts us in the company of the remaining 10% of nations, the names of some of which, such as China and North Korea, are synonymous with human rights abuse.

At the risk of understating things, that means we have work to do. A new crop of state senators will be fresh off election this coming November and will come into the body in January – a whole new group of people to confirm and strengthen in their conviction for life or to win over to that great cause. That work – theirs and ours – is work worth doing.

As disappointed as we are that a special session this summer is not possible – and it is a sad thing – discouragement is not an option for Christians or members of the pro-life movement. We prayed, worked and waited for 50 years to see the downfall of Roe. A little more must not daunt us.

Remember that Roe was overturned just a few short weeks ago – something many people thought would never happen. Remember how achingly close we are to advancing greater protections for preborn babies in Nebraska law. Remember how many pro-life ministries are spread across this state, and how many signs are visible on our state highways and byways encouraging mothers to choose life.

We will win, though we do not know the day or the hour or the manner in which it will happen. That is for the Lord. Today is an occasion for rededication to prayer and work. We builders of the culture of life are not afraid of that.

Marion Miner is associate director for pro-life and family with the Nebraska Catholic Conference. Email him at mminer@necatholic.org.