Omaha woman says ‘heartbeat’ bill would inject politicians into ‘difficult’ private decisions
LINCOLN — One after another, four women on Tuesday shared their traumatic, personal stories about abortion rights and urged Nebraska lawmakers to reject a proposal to further restrict the process.
“This legislation takes away the power of Nebraska residents to control their bodies and their future,” said Abby Waller, a 37-year-old Omaha mother who chose to have an abortion after doctors said her fetus would not survive.
“It shouldn’t be up to politicians in the statehouse to make personal and private decisions about health care,” Waller said.
hearing on Wednesday
On Wednesday, a state Legislative Committee will hear testimony on Legislative Bill 626, the Nebraska Heartbeat Act. It would ban abortions as soon as a heartbeat is detected, which is about six weeks into a pregnancy. There would be exceptions for rape, incest and maternal health.
Current Nebraska law prohibits abortions after 20 weeks.
Dozens of people are expected to attend the LB 626 public hearing on Wednesday afternoon.
While opponents like Waller claim the bill constitutes government interference in personal health care decisions and could force women to use extreme and dangerous means to end an unwanted pregnancy, abortion opponents claim that life begins at conception and is protected should be.
Nebraska Right to Life’s Sandy Danek said she became an activist after having a stillborn child. She is now a presenter for a Catholic Church hospice program called Healing Heart, which provides support and counseling to couples dealing with stillbirth.
Hospice care is an alternative
The program gives couples more time to grieve, Danek said, and the opportunity to hold their child before it dies.
“Hospice care gives them the support they need so their baby can die of natural causes,” she said.
But during a virtual news conference Tuesday sponsored by Nebraska-based Planned Parenthood Advocates, Waller and three other women shared their personal experiences of facing barriers to abortion.
One, Kacie Ware of Omaha, said she was abused and raped by a much older man and became pregnant while in high school.
She said she believes the Heartbeat bill would have prevented her from getting an abortion because she had to go through the time-consuming “juridical circumvention” process required for minors to get an abortion without parental permission.
Ban would ‘end safe abortions’
“I would have done anything to end the pregnancy,” said Ware, who is now a mother of two. “Abortion bans will only end safe abortions.”
Waller said she was excited to learn she was pregnant with her second child, but genetic testing showed her baby had Down syndrome and that her brain was not developing properly and she had a heart condition.
Doctors told her the baby had only a 10% chance of survival and even if she survived she would only live a few months and would need to be put on a ventilator.
Waller said she and her husband made the “difficult” choice of having an abortion, which was performed two years ago. She said that since genetic testing is only allowed after 10 weeks, the Heartbeat bill would have forced her to “wait until my child dies on its own”.
Nebraska Right to Life’s Danek said she often hears from couples who want to carry their child to term, even though they know they may not be viable.
In 2017, lawmakers passed the Compassion and Care for Medically Challenging Pregnancy Act, which requires the state to provide information about services related to perinatal hospice care.
Danek said she has been counseling grieving couples for 30 years and said such pregnancies allow couples “naturally” process their grief and “make decisions that are best for their child” rather than making the hasty decision to have an abortion.