New petition drive offers voters chance to protect the unborn in Nebraska constitution

Nebraska voters are expected to have another option in November when it comes to abortion and constitutional amendments following the announcement of new petition drive that would preserve existing state laws on abortion.

A committee of Nebraska medical professionals, called Protect Women & Children, announced the new ballot initiative on March 19. The measure would allow some protections for babies in the womb and counters a more extreme proposal that was released in November.

Though the measure isn’t perfect, the initiative would help save lives, Nebraska’s three Catholic bishops said in a joint statement.

The proposed language for the ballot: “Except when a woman seeks an abortion necessitated by a medical emergency or when the pregnancy results from sexual assault or incest, unborn children shall be protected from abortion in the second and third trimesters.”

After reviewing the proposed ballot language, Archbishop of Omaha George Lucas, Bishop of Lincoln James Conley and Bishop of Grand Island Joseph Hanefeldt released a statement:

“Nebraska voters are likely to decide on two ballot measures regarding abortion this November. We have reviewed the proposed initiative to create a constitutional protection for preborn children in the second and third trimester that was announced on Tuesday morning. Although imperfect in its protection of all preborn children, the proposal is a step toward safeguarding human life. Thus, it is morally permissible for Nebraskans to support this newly proposed initiative.

More importantly, we urge Nebraskans to unite in opposition to the other initiative proposal that wants to enshrine the evil of late-pregnancy abortion into the state constitution.

Women in Nebraska deserve support throughout pregnancy, not abandonment to the lifelong, physical, and emotional trauma of abortion. The late-pregnancy abortion ballot measure fails pregnant women and is more extreme than meets the eye. Nebraskans should pray and work for its defeat and commit to even more support for pregnant women in need.”

From left: Archbishop of Omaha George Lucas, Bishop of Lincoln James Conley and Bishop of Grand Island Joseph Hanefeldt

Voters should view the new proposal “as an incremental step toward full protection of all human life from abortion,” the bishops said, and as “an imperfect alternative to the intrinsically evil pro-abortion ballot initiative proposal launched in November.” 

The alternative would not create a constitutional right to abortion in Nebraska, according to an explanation by the Nebraska Catholic Conference, which consulted with reputable attorneys on the matter. If enacted, the measure would allow the Nebraska Legislature to provide further protections for preborn children. Current state law – restricting abortion at 12 weeks with exceptions in cases of rape, incest and medical emergencies – would also remain in place.

The Nebraska Catholic Conference has called the late-pregnancy abortion measure dangerous and deceptive because it would wipe out 50 years of health and safety protections for women and girls from unsafe abortions, allow teenagers abortion access without their parents’ knowledge and create a right to risky late-term abortions.

The pro-abortion effort is supported by abortion-rights organizations like Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the ACLU of Nebraska.

In a letter to clergy, Archbishop Lucas reiterated the bishops’ unity in working to defeat the late-pregnancy abortion initiative. He invited priests and deacons to pray for Nebraska during this election year and expressed a desire for parishes to renew their support for mothers in need.  DOWNLOAD THIS RESOURCE: Explaining the Pro-Abortion Initiative (Final) (1)

A counter measure

Protect Women & Children’s proposal “would be more acceptable and more in line with what Nebraskans think on the abortion issue, which is to provide certain protections for the unborn and leave the rest of it in the hands of the Legislature,” said Tom Venzor, executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference.

The Protect Women & Children Committee has as its members Mark Patefield, a Laurel pharmacist and member of the State Board of Health; Elizabeth Peterson, a nurse; and retired nurses Jan Kuehn and Maureen Bausch.

Their group brings the initiative to address concerns in the late-pregnancy abortion ballot initiative proposal, which would enshrine abortion as a state constitutional right.

That measure, Protect Women & Children said, would: “ 1) subject women and medical professionals to vague, unscientific standards, putting courts in the middle of the doctor-patient relationship; 2) dangerously expand the scope of abortion practice from licensed physicians to any ‘health care practitioner’; 3) eliminate parental notification requirements, endangering women and girls across Nebraska; and 4) undermine conscience protections for Nebraska medical professionals.

“All of these outcomes are harmful to women and children in our state.”

Ballot initiative organizers need to gather signatures from at least 10% of Nebraska voters and include 5% of registered voters in at least 38 of the state’s 93 counties. The deadline is July 3.


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