Pro-life supporters at the Nebraska State Capitol watch as senators debate a bill restricting abortion on April 27, 2023.


Nebraska lawmakers block Heartbeat Act in ‘tragic’ vote

Nebraska lawmakers on Thursday failed to advance a bill that would have protected thousands of unborn babies from abortion by barring the procedure after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. 

LB626, The Nebraska Heartbeat Act, fell one vote short of defeating a filibuster during second round debate at the Nebraska State Capitol and is likely done for the session, according to media reports. 

Sen. Joni Albrecht

The measure, introduced by Sen. Joni Albrecht of Thurston, would have prevented an estimated 85% of abortions in the state and saved about 2,000 lives a year while allowing some exceptions for rare cases, proponents have said. Current Nebraska law prohibits abortion at 20 weeks post-fertilization.

Earlier this month, the measure cleared a major legislative hurdle with an April 12 vote, but the unfriendly amendment from co-sponsor Sen. Merve Riepe of Ralston left open the bill’s fate. Riepe sought to amend the bill to ban abortion at 12 weeks.

“According to the annual reports from (the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services), the overwhelming majority of abortions in our state take place before 12 weeks,” Albrecht said. “LB626 could save 2,000 precious lives every year from elective abortions [while] the 12-week law will only stop around 300 abortions.”

In response to Thursday’s vote, Marion Miner of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, which advocates for the public policy interests of the Catholic Church, called the development tragic, disappointing and consequential.

“All preborn babies in Nebraska, whose beating hearts remind us of their existence, deserve to be kept safe during the most fragile moments of life. Their dignity does not depend on whether they are abled, wanted or from a family of means. They are created in God’s image and likeness,” said Miner, the conference’s associate director for Pro-Life and Family Policy.

“Some Nebraska lawmakers overlooked that fact today and cast aside an opportunity to safeguard the most vulnerable among us. Today’s vote is tragic, disappointing and consequential for thousands upon thousands of preborn babies.”

The Catholic Conference thanked Albrecht and the 31 other senators voting for the pro-life measure along with Gov. Jim Pillen for their leadership.

“As we pray for an end to abortion in our state, we must continue to boldly advocate for laws that protect life and extend support for expectant mothers choosing life against all odds,” Miner said.

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