"Abortion Reversal" Bill Moves One Step Closer to Passage

May 23, 2019, 5:46 p.m. ·

Sen. Joni Albrecht debates abortion in the Legislature Thursday (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)

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The Nebraska Legislature moved a step closer Thursday to requiring abortion providers tell women if they change their mind, they can get medical information from the state.

At issue is what supporters of the bill call abortion reversal, and opponents call junk science. It involves women who take the first of two abortion-inducing drugs – mifepristone -- and then decide they want to carry their pregnancy to term.

Sen. Joni Albrecht, chief sponsor, read what the bill would require abortion providers tell women. “Research indicates that mifepristone is not always effective in ending a pregnancy. You may still have a viable pregnancy after taking mifepristone. If you change your mind and want to continue your pregnancy after taking mifepristone, information on finding immediate medical assistance is available on the web site of the Department of Health and Human Services,” Albrecht said. (For an example of information supporters say DHHS may link to, click here. For criticism of "abortion reversal" by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, click here).

She added that the information is part of informed consent, declaring “This is entirely factual information that women deserve to know.”

Albrecht cited research by Dr. George Delgado claiming that giving a woman the hormone progesterone after she takes mifepristone, and before she takes the second drug, misoprostol, increases the chances she will remain pregnant.

Sen. Megan Hunt, leading opposition to the bill, slammed Delgado’s research. Hunt argued while some women remain pregnant after taking the first drug, there’s no scientific evidence that progesterone increases the chances of that. “If you took a handful of Skittles between mifepristone and misoprostol, you’d have just as high of a rate as whatever quackery that DHHS is going to be telling these people,” Hunt said.

Opposing the bill, Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks suggested it was symptomatic of society telling women what to do. She quoted U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “The decision of whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, well-being and dignity. When the government makes the decision for her, she has been treated as less than a full adult, responsible for her own choices,” she said.

Sen. Suzanne Geist, supporting the bill, said she’s not motivated by wanting to condemn women seeking an abortion. “I come at this, not as a point of pointing my finger at women who chose this option, but to say ‘There is hope. There is a different choice. And if you choose that different choice, we want to make that evidently clear to you,” she said.

Hunt said the state needs to be more welcoming of people with different points of view. “I’m looking towards the future. I’m a young professional in this state. I’m a single parent, I’m a bisexual atheist. And I’m here in the Nebraska Legislature, and I have the privilege of making laws for all the people in this state, along with all of you, who feel like they’re not seen by us in here,” she said.

Sen. Steve Halloran condemned opposition to the bill from Planned Parenthood. Halloran quoted a 1939 letter from Margaret Sanger, who helped found the organization, to suggest abortion supporters are motivated by racism. “’We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out the idea if it ever occurs to any of their most rebellious members,’” Halloran said.

Hunt denied the validity of that argument. “Margaret Sanger was in fact super-racist. But I always combat that point with by saying that Planned Parenthood shouldn’t exist because its long-dead founder was racist, then the United States of America shouldn’t exist because our long-dead founders were racist slaveholders,” she said.

As opponents continued to filibuster against the bill, Albrecht moved for cloture, to cut off debate and proceed to a vote. Cloture requires support from 33 of the 49 senators. Albrecht’s motion prevailed on a vote of 35-11, and senators then voted 36-9 to give the bill second-round approval. It will require one more vote before being sent to Gov. Pete Ricketts for his signature.