Nebraska Legislature bans barbaric abortion procedure on last day of session

Pro-life supporters celebrated a victory Aug. 15 as Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts signed LB814 into law on the steps of the state capitol.

The bill, passed Aug. 13, the last day of the 2019-2020 legislative session, outlaws the practice of dismemberment abortion.

This method, also called dilation and evacuation, is performed in the second trimester of pregnancy to end a baby’s life by using forceps to tear the baby apart in the womb and remove the pieces.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Suzanne Geist of Lincoln, who represents District 25, said banning the barbaric practice, although performed infrequently, was necessary “for drawing us back to valuing vulnerable life.”

“I believe the way we treat the most vulnerable in our society is the way we treat everyone,” she said. “When we devalue life in the womb, we devalue life outside the womb, and I think we’re seeing that in our society right now.”

The bill advanced to floor debate after being pulled by a 30-8 vote from the Judiciary Committee where it had stalled. Geist had to work to ensure the 33 votes needed to overcome a possible filibuster. The bill eventually passed 33-8.

“No matter what a person thinks about abortion – whether they’re pro-life or pro-choice – (there was agreement) that this type of procedure needed to be banned,” she said.

“With this bill, I saw the largest outpouring of prayer and support that I’ve ever seen,” Geist said. “That’s what won this. It was absolutely amazing.”

Tom Venzor, executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference (NCC), which represents the public policy interests of Nebraska’s three Catholic dioceses, echoed the senator’s comments.

He thanked pro-life advocates across the state who were praying; writing, emailing and calling their senators; and talking to neighbors to build support for the bill.

“There were thousands of contacts to their senators,” Venzor said. “They just got it that this bill was just basic common sense.”

“We’re tremendously grateful to God, to Sen. Geist and all the senators who stuck with us to get this across the finish line,” said Marion Miner, NCC associate director for pro-life and family.

“It was tough for a lot of them to stand firm,” he said. “A lot of them were really targeted by opponents. … A number of senators seem to have found their voice when it comes to this issue, and have really started to speak with more conviction and confidence on the value of life.”

He said LB814 was the most meaningful pro-life legislation passed in Nebraska in the past 10 years. “We’ve been building toward a moment like this for quite some time,” Miner said.

Other bills before the Legislature during the 2019-2020 session that garnered NCC support included LB670, the Opportunity Scholarships Act, sponsored by Sen. Lou Ann Linehan.

That bill would have provided tax credits for donations to scholarship granting organizations that help low-income and working class children attend a private school of their choice.

“We decided, along with Sen. Linehan, that because of the time crunch at the end of the session, and because she was particularly honed in on property tax relief, business incentives and a UNMC project … we were going to hit pause on that,” Venzor said.

“We’re seeing in our lower and middle income families some belt tightening because of the pandemic, and for some families it’s becoming all the more difficult to choose a parochial education, even if they know that’s the best choice for their child,” Venzor said.

“So we intend to come back next year with full force and full vigor to continue advocating for scholarship tax credits and school choice legislation.”

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