Standing Up for Life
August 25, 2021
In the next year, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to make its most important decision regarding abortion law and states’ rights in over a quarter-century. The Court’s ruling could overturn Roe v. Wade and give states more latitude in passing pro-life initiatives, including legislation limiting abortion in the early stages of pregnancy.
In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision deprived Nebraska and other states of the authority to prohibit abortions before a baby can viably live outside of his or her mother’s womb. Prior to Roe, many states banned or limited the killing of unborn babies. After the court’s decision, judges have applied the viability standard to abortion law, but with scientific and medical advances the point of viability has been changing as premature babies survive earlier and earlier.
The Roe decision not only ignored the humanity of unborn children, but it was also decided on the basis of novel legal doctrine. In his dissenting opinion, Justice William Rehnquist, who heard the case and later served as Chief Justice, strongly condemned the Court’s majority opinion. “To reach its result,” he wrote, “the Court necessarily has had to find within the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment a right that was apparently completely unknown to the drafters of the Amendment.” He presented convincing historical evidence showing that Congress, in passing the Fourteenth Amendment, had never intended to prevent states from enacting legislation to restrict abortion.
In effect, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe decision singlehandedly amended the U.S. Constitution to protect abortion. In doing so, the Court usurped the authority given to Congress and the states in Article V of the Constitution to decide on amendments to our country’s most important governing document. Because this decision circumvented the amendment process and usurped states’ rights, it has lacked legitimacy since it was decided.
Fast forward to the present: The State of Mississippi has taken legal action to challenge Roe v. Wade by asking the Supreme Court to review the authority of states to regulate abortion. In May, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, which is known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The question at hand in the Dobbs case is whether Mississippi law can prohibit abortion after 15 weeks of gestation. Both chambers of Mississippi’s legislature passed the bill with overwhelming majorities. After Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed it into law, an abortion clinic—Jackson Women’s Health Organization — sought to have the law overturned. The Supreme Court is expected to hear the Dobbs case during its 2021-2022 term, which means it will likely be decided sometime next year.
Nebraska is a pro-life state, and we will be watching the Dobbs case closely. Nebraska state law says that it is “the will of the people of the State of Nebraska and the members of the Legislature to provide protection for the life of the unborn child whenever possible.” In Nebraska, we have a long tradition of protecting unborn life through state law. In recent years, State Senators Joni Albrecht, Suzanne Geist, and others have championed legislation to protect the lives of babies and support mothers.
In 2017, Senator Joni Albrecht championed the Compassionate Care for Medically Challenging Pregnancies Act. Tragically, some unborn children are diagnosed with lethal fetal anomalies. The Compassionate Care Act ensures that doctors fully equip women with information on perinatal hospice care at the time of these difficult diagnoses. By doing so, patients and their families gain immediate awareness of resources and support services to help them cope with this heartbreaking challenge.
In 2018, the Legislature approved LB 1040, another bill sponsored by Senator Albrecht, to provide commemorative certificates to mothers who miscarry. The bill affirms the dignity of life and humanely acknowledges the loss that a mother undergoes through miscarriage.
In 2019, Senator Albrecht successfully secured the passage of a bill to bolster the state’s informed consent protections. It requires doctors to direct women to information on how to reverse the abortion pill when the drug is prescribed.
In 2020, Senator Geist put forward LB 814 to end the barbaric practice of dismemberment abortion in Nebraska. It’s the most consequential pro-life legislation enacted in our state over the past decade.
This year, State Senators worked together to pass a new tax credit for families who have a stillborn baby to help offset medical bills, burial expenses, and costs of preparing for the baby’s arrival.
And it’s not just state government stepping up. Nebraska’s crisis pregnancy centers are doing great work every day across our state to provide services to expectant mothers and help them learn about pro-life alternatives to abortion. Leaders like Toni Clarke of Assure Women’s Center in Omaha and Sarah Kroner of Women’s Care Center in Lincoln are dedicated, compassionate advocates for the welfare of women and babies.
Moving forward, we will continue to work together to protect life in Nebraska. If you have questions about any of these pro-life initiatives or any other matter, please contact my office at [email protected] or 402-471-2244. As the Supreme Court takes up the Dobbs case, it is my hope that their decision will return abortion law to the states, so Nebraska and others can take action to protect the right to life.