Ricketts Won't Call Special Session on Abortion

8 Aug 2022, 4 p.m. ·

Nebraska Capitol (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)
Nebraska Capitol (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)

Listen To This Story

Gov. Pete Ricketts announced Monday he will not call a special session of the Legislature to tighten Nebraska’s restrictions on abortion, because there are not enough votes to overcome a filibuster.

Ricketts made his announcement after receiving a letter from Speaker of the Legislature Mike Hilgers. The letter listed 30 senators in the 49-member Legislature who Hilgers said would support a ban on abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy. That’s a tighter restriction than Nebraska’s current law, which allows abortions up to 20 weeks after fertilization. And it’s more than a majority of the 49-member legislature. But in his monthly call-in show on KFOR Radio, Ricketts said it’s not enough.

“While this is a supermajority it is short of the 33 votes we’d need to be able to break a filibuster. So while there a supermajority of senators who wanted to do more to protect preborn babies, we don’t have enough to be able to get over that threshold of 33. And for this reason I will not be calling a special session,” Ricketts said.

It takes 33 votes, or two-thirds of the Legislature, to cut off debate and vote on a bill if opponents continue to speak against it. Earlier this year, a motion to cut off debate on a complete ban failed, with only 31 votes.

Ricketts said he was saddened that there was not enough support for a special session. But Sen. Megan Hunt, an abortion-rights supporter who helped lead this spring’s filibuster against a ban, celebrated the outcome. In a tweet, Hunt said “Abortion is a right. Abortion is health care. And the decision about whether and when to become a parent does not belong to the government.”

Ricketts left open the possibility of calling a special session if the numbers change, but said he doesn’t expect that to happen. In that case, the issue will be debated by the next Legislature, which convenes in January, with a cast of senators which we be determined by the election this November.