A sign displayed during the annual Walk for Life in Lincoln on Jan. 29 expressed the hopes of many pro-life supporters that Roe v. Wade will be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court this year. Given that possibility, the Nebraska Legislature is considering a bill that would make abortion illegal in the state. SUSAN SZALEWSKI/STAFF

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State senators hear testimony concerning pro-life bills

During an afternoon hearing that ended up running late into the evening, the Nebraska Legislature’s Judiciary Committee heard testimony Feb. 24 concerning three pro-life bills being considered during the current session.

The first was LB933, the Nebraska Human Life Protection Act, sponsored by Sen. Joni Albrecht. The bill, which also is Speaker of the Legislature Mike Hilger’s personal priority bill, would prohibit abortions in the state in the event that the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

Sen. Albrecht told the committee she introduced LB933 because life is a human right.

“Every abortion ends the life of an innocent human being, a baby that is alive and growing and has their own unique DNA, separate from their mother,” she said.

But, since the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, nearly 200,000 abortions have been performed in Nebraska, equal to 10% of the state’s current population, Sen. Albrecht added.

One person who could have become a statistic was Ryan Bomberger, who told the committee of the far-reaching impact a woman’s decision about whether to have an abortion can have.

“I was conceived in rape, but adopted in love” into a family of 13 racially-diverse children, including 10 who were adopted, he said.

“The circumstances of our conception never change the condition of our worth,” he said. “My birth mom’s courageous decision (not to abort) will continue to unleash beautiful reverberations for generations.”

Bomberger, an author, columnist, educator and internationally-known speaker, is married with four children, two of whom are adopted. He also is co-founder with his wife of the Radiance Foundation, a group supporting life issues, human rights, social justice and adoption as an alternative to abortion.

Bomberger, who is Black, also spoke of the disproportionate effect that abortion has on the Black community.

Calling abortion “systemic racism,” he said the procedure is “the leading killer of Black lives, outnumbering the top 20 causes of death combined,” with Planned Parenthood ending 360 Black lives through abortion every day in the United States.

SUPPORT FOR VULNERABLE WOMEN

Also testifying on behalf of LB933 were Julie Mainelli, executive director of Mater Filus, and Gina Tomes, director and co-founder of Bethlehem House. They described how their Omaha organizations provide support to women with unplanned pregnancies through temporary housing, counseling, education and other services to help women choose life, especially those who lack support or resources and who are vulnerable to pressure to have an abortion.

One of those women was Hailey Ghumm, a Mater Filius graduate.

“I know the program Mater Filius has to offer changes lives, because it changed mine,” she said during her testimony. “The support there is available to any woman in need. Mater Filius stands true to their mission statement of defending life with love.”

Marion Miner, associate director of pro-life and family policy for the Nebraska Catholic Conference (NCC), who also testified, told the Catholic Voice the descriptions of the support available through Mater Filius and Bethlehem House appeared to be eye opening for members of the committee. 

“Both (Mainelli and Tomes) gave their testimonies about what a compassionate, pro-life Nebraska looks like, what a post-Roe, post-abortion Nebraska might look like.”

“You could tell that they had a positive impact on the committee,” he said. “Some committee members paid very close attention to them. They were not aware of these places and the work that they’re doing.”

Other proponents of LB933 included representatives of pro-life organizations, high school and college students, parents, foster parents and others.

The other bills for which the committee heard testimony were LB781, the Heartbeat Act, which would ban abortion once a heartbeat can be detected in the preborn child, and LB1086, the Chemical Abortion Safety Protocol Act, which would require health and safety measures for chemical abortions and ban the procedure after seven weeks of pregnancy.

Two medical doctors were among those testifying in support of those bills.

Dr. Arthur Grinstead, a family practice and OB/GYN physician with Holy Family Medical Associates in Lincoln, told the committee of medical science’s belief that human life begins at fertilization, and that a fetal heartbeat begins at 21 or 22 days after fertilization, citing language from medical school embryology textbooks.

Dr. Richard Wurtz, a family practice physician also with Holy Family Medical Associates, spoke of the need to ensure the safety of women seeking chemical abortions in order to protect them from the complications that can occur.

Miner acknowledged that the opposition flooded the hearing with large numbers of people essentially repeating the same message, to create an image of a large wave of opposition.

But the NCC’s approach for supporting legislation has always been to invite a few people with a particularly good perspective on an issue rather than overwhelming the committee with testimony, he said.

A NEW OPPORTUNITY

Miner said it is unlikely the three bills will be voted out of committee, and would probably require “pull motions” 20 days after the hearing to bring them before the full Legislature for debate.

Asked about the likelihood of passage Miner said “we’re cautiously optimistic. It’s going to be very tight.”

“We definitely have the majority of the body on our side … but the question is whether we’re going to have enough (33 votes) to break a filibuster.”

He asks pro-life supporters to watch for updates by joining the NCC’s advocacy network at necatholic.org and to be ready to take action such as sending emails of support to their senators. He also asked for continued prayers for success.

The prospect of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade casts discussion of LB933 in a new light, apart from consideration of the bill’s constitutionality, Miner said.

“This is the first opportunity we’ve had to propose and debate a piece of legislation where artificial barriers … are stripped away, because it’s a straightforward, moral issue here – should abortion be permitted or should it not be permitted? Should we protect human life or should we not?”

“I think the votes that are going to take place will really allow people to see where their public officials stand on the life issue,” Miner said.