Abortion-rights supporters gather at the Capitol to protest proposed restrictions

Jan. 23, 2023, 1:20 p.m. ·

Abortion Rights Supporters Gather at the Capitol Building
Abortion rights supporters gather at the capitol for the during the "Bigger than Roe" abortions-rights rally on Jan. 22, 2023. (Photo by William Padmore, Nebraska Public Media News

Abortion rights supporters have a lot to be anxious about this year. There’s a conservative majority in the state and last year the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

But the mood outside the capitol building Sunday during the Bigger than Roe abortions rights rally was jubilant as about three dozen protesters braved below-freezing temperatures to wave signs, chant and dance.

Thia Hartley wielded a large pink sign reading “Honk 4 Choice.” She believes that if the Unicameral moves to further restrict abortion rights, it would doom women and families across the state.

Thia Hartley Protests Against Further Abortion Restriction at the Capitol
Thia Hartley Protests Against Further Abortion Restriction at the Capitol on Jan. 22, 2023. (Photo by William Padmore, Nebraska Public Media News)

“Women will die obtaining abortions that aren't safe. There'll be hardship. Children will be born without the financial means to raise them," Hartley said. "Women may even die during childbirth because they had a medical condition that necessitated an abortion and they won't be able to get one.”

State Sen. Sen Joni Albright has proposed legislation to restrict abortions to six weeks, but it has yet to be officially introduced. Abortions are currently legal in Nebraska up to 20 weeks after conception.

When asked about the reality of having a majority conservative Unicameral and a governor who has vowed to make a total abortion ban in the state a “top priority,” a few protesters, such as Lezlee Williams expressed hope that a silent majority of Nebraskans would ultimately push back against restrictions.

“I disagree that there are more people against abortion in the state than for it,” said Williams. “I grew up in a small town. I believe that there are a lot of people who believe in the right of a woman's choice, but maybe wouldn't do that themselves … I just don’t think we hear from them.”

Protester Khalisha Casey said that she has lived in Nebraska since the second grade, but has grown weary of its continued tilt to the right on abortion and other issues.

Max and Khalisha Support Abortion Rights
Max Hjermstad and Khalisha Casey protest against proposed abortion restrictions during the "Bigger than Roe" rally at the Capitol building on Jan. 22, 2023

“With abortion rights and other issues, trans rights, LGBT rights, all of these things that people should inherently have as respect to themselves. I don't know how much longer I can stay in Nebraska, honestly,” Casey said.

Fellow protester Max Hjermstad, expressed similar displeasure with the direction state is heading and said he would continue advocating to change it, but admitted at times he felt limited on what could realistically be accomplish.

“I have to go someplace that actually wants to support me and the people I love and care about,” said Hjermstad. “At some point, I might just have to cut ties, unfortunately.”

The Bigger than Roe rally Sunday was part of several protests occurring nationwide to commemorate the day the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in1973.

Next Saturday, anti-abortion supporters will have their turn to be heard during the 50th annual Nebraska Walk for Life.

Abortions Rights Poster
An abortion rights poster at the "Bigger than Roe" rally at the capitol. (Photo by William Padmore, Nebraska Publlic Media News)