Today, in a blatant bid to shut down late-term provider Dr. Leroy Carhart, the Nebraska Legislature overwhelmingly passed a virtual ban on all abortions beyond 20 weeks. The so-called "Pain Capable Unborn Child Act," LB 1103 does not only affect women and families from Nebraska. (Nor is it really about fetal pain, a concept that both the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologist disavow as a possibility this early in fetal development.)
As Speaker Mike Flood, who introduced LB1103, and anti-choice organizations like National Right to Life have made clear, passing LB1103 in Nebraska is part of a calculated bid. The intention of its supporters is to bring an abortion rights challenge before the United States Supreme Court, where they're counting on Justice Kennedy to be their swing vote, based on the language he used in his brief from the Gonzalez vs. Carhart decision in 2007. Make no mistake: this is a national issue that impacts us all.
Shutting down Dr. Carhart, one of four remaining late-term providers in the U.S., will not stem the need for late-term abortions any more than did the murder of my mentor and Dr. Carhart's colleague, Dr. George Tiller, last May. It just means that yet more women all over the country will have no access to safe, legal later termination of pregnancy. That doesn't mean that women will stop needing or having abortions -- only that they'll go to greater risks and expense to get them.
One of the greatest cruelties of LB 1103 is that it strips parents of their right to make decisions for their families at what should be the most private of moments. Many parents who opt for late-term procedures do so because they find out about severe fetal anomalies late in pregnancy -- at or past the 20 weeks specified in LB 1103.
Take Tim Mosher, who testified before the Nebraska Judiciary Committee this past February at the request of Trust Women PAC. Tim and his wife, Dawn, learned at 20 weeks that their baby was suffering from the most severe level of untreatable Spina Bifida. After consulting with medical experts and their families, they decided, in Tim's words, that, "We couldn't force our little girl to live in constant pain and suffering before dying a pre-mature death." But under LB 1103, if the woman's life isn't in danger -- one of the few health exceptions in the bill -- parents who find themselves in the same situation as Tim and Dawn in the future will be forced to carry these painful, ultimately fatal pregnancies to term.
In the weeks leading up to today's vote, nearly 1,000 women and men nationwide have signed Trust Women PAC's petition calling for Nebraska's legislators to vote against LB 1103 and against government interference into families' private healthcare decisions. LB 1103 may be destined for the judicial system, but you can still join them in understanding the national implications of this seemingly local bill and taking action.
Take action whether you live in a red or a blue state. Here's how!
Get involved in a state-level political race in a red state. (Remember, these bills that shut down providers locally, and may go all the way up to the federal level, start in state legislatures!) You can do this by volunteering your time, donating money, providing housing for campaign staff, and supporting third party efforts to defeat anti-choice candidates. Some states to watch for beside Nebraska include New Mexico, Colorado, and Oklahoma.
It is more important now than ever to understand and act on the implications of seemingly local politics on women and families nationwide. So keep your eyes wide open, sign up for Trust Women PAC's Action Alerts by subscribing through our web site, and get active on the local level. That's where bills start that ultimately determine the level of freedom and decision-making afforded to all women and their families across America.