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CAPITOL VIEW: Battle over abortion not the fight it once was PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 12 May 2011 20:20

There was a time, not long ago, when it was suggested in this space that abortion was not quite the hot button issue it once was in the Nebraska Legislature.

Julie Schmit –Albin, executive director of Nebraska Right to Life, quickly got in touch to ask for an explanation of what she thought was a downgrading of the abortion issue.

The explanation from here was, and is: The anti-abortion side has pretty much won. Its dominance is established. Done deal.

And the validity of that view was confirmed recently when anti-abortion forces won yet another victory in the Tower on the Plains.

A bill that would ban so-called telemedicine abortions had stalled in the Judiciary Committee. A motion to send the measure to the full Legislature failed.

Schmit-Albin was Julie-on-the-spot within hours, announcing Nebraska Right to Life would continue to pursue support for the bill.

Three things happened.

The Right to Life representatives stayed on the job. Attorney General Jon Bruning approved an opinion saying the bill was constitutional. Then the bill picked up the single additional vote it needed in committee and was sent to the legislative floor for debate.

And regardless of what other bills are awaiting debate, you can bet this anti-abortion plan is going to have its day, and perhaps its way, before the 2011 Legislature goes home.

It isn’t likely to face a successful filibuster.

Could some compromise amendments be adopted? Perhaps. But chances are better than good that those so-called telemedicine abortions – which involve giving a pregnant woman a couple of pills while a doctor supervises via computer from a remote location – will face a whole bunch of restrictions, no matter what. And the chances are equally good, in fact, that they will be outlawed in Nebraska.

So, “hot button” is not the moniker we would hang on abortion policy these days, so far as legislative business is concerned.

Consider the potentially historic abortion measure enacted by the 2010 Legislature. It bars abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, based on the assertion that a fetus can feel pain at that stage. It’s an entirely new standard, and several other states have since looked at the same idea.

Abortion is not a “hot button” issue if you’re talking about genuine, hard-fought legislative wars. A skirmish, maybe. A war, no.


ED HOWARD is the statehouse correspondent for the Nebraska Press Association.