Nebraska's Senate voted 38 to 5 on an abortion bill which will affect how long into a pregnancy abortion is legal, based on the fetus's possible ability to feel pain. According to the Omaha World-Herald, Nebraska's current abortion law was based on fetal viability, which begins around 24 weeks after fertilization.
The current bill was introduced in the Nebraska state Legislature in January by Speaker Mike Flood (R). Under the bill, abortions after the 20th week would only be permissible "to avert death or to avert serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function." The bill also cites "substantial evidence that abortion methods used at and after 20 weeks would cause substantial pain to an unborn child" as the reason for the ban.
Flood decided to introduce the bill after Dr. Leroy Carhart, a Nebraska abortion provider, announced his intention to continue the work of Dr. George Tiller last summer. Dr. Carhart was a close friend and colleague of Dr. George Tiller, who was murdered in May 2009 at his church. Dr. Tiller was one of the few late abortion providers in the country. Prior to the murder, Dr. Carhart provided late abortions at Tiller's clinic, Women's Health Care Services, in Wichita, Kansas.
State Senator Danielle Conrad, who voted against the bill, told KPTM News, "This bill isn't about fetal pain, it's about pushing the envelope to get rid of women's rights." Senator Brenda Council also told KPTM News that the bill is "advancing political agendas above the real interests of women and children in this state," and labeled it as "a total disregard for the interests of the mothers and families who have to make difficult decisions."
Of the 2,800 abortions performed in Nebraska in 2008, none were performed after 20 weeks, bringing up questions about the need for such legislation. The bill will now face two more rounds of debate and two more votes before it can be sent to the governor's office for approval.