Abortion, Vaping, Campaign Finance Among Subjects for Discussion

Jan. 11, 2019, 4:05 p.m. ·

Sen. Joni Albrecht discusses abortion legislation before supporters (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)

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Proposed changes to laws affecting abortion, vaping, and campaign finance were among measures introduced in the Nebraska Legislature Friday.

The abortion proposal by Sen. Joni Albrecht would require abortion providers to tell women that it may be possible to reverse the effects of an abortion-inducing drug if she acts quickly. Albrecht talked about her proposal in a Capitol rotunda news conference with supporters from groups including Nebraska Right to Life, the Nebraska Family Alliance and the Nebraska Catholic Conference.

“I’m introducing a pro-woman, pro-information, pro-life, pro-choice bill that will benefit all women who are beginning the abortion pill process and want a second chance at choice,” she said.

The bill addresses medication abortions, which typically involve taking one drug to weaken the uterine lining, and another a day or two later to empty the uterus. Supporters of the legislation say it’s possible about two-thirds of the time for a woman to save her pregnancy through hormone injections if she changes her mind before taking the second drug.

However, a statement by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said “So-called abortion ‘reversal’ procedures are unproven and unethical.” A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood also criticized the proposal.

Albrecht’s bill could produce a filibuster by senators opposed to restrictions on abortion. A filibuster would require 33 votes to overcome. As of Friday, a total of 21 senators have signed on as sponsors of the legislation.

The vaping proposal was introduced by Sen. Dan Quick. It would raise the age for legal vaping from 18 to 21, and prohibit selling people younger than 21 flavored liquids containing nicotine for vaping. Quick says the proposal grew out of school officials’ concerns that vaping is becoming an epidemic among students.

Sen. Megan Hunt introduced a bill to eliminate sales tax on feminine hygiene products – the so-called “tampon tax.” Hunt says many medical devices are already tax exempt, and she views these products the same way.

“You can’t choose to have a period. It’s a monthly fact of life for over half the population. And for many people it’s also very expensive. The average woman spends thousands of dollars in her lifetime just for this medical necessity that none of us can control, she said. And she added that many people consider the tax on menstrual hygiene products to be gender discrimination.

Hunt also introduced bills Friday aimed at combatting so-called conversion therapy that tries to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

On campaign finance, Sen. Sue Crawford introduced a bill to require more disclosure. Crawford’s bill includes a requirement to report spending on what’s called electioneering communication. That refers to ads close to an election that name specific candidates or ballot issues.

Last year, a group called the Alliance for Taxpayers ran ads critical of Medicaid expansion. But because the ads didn’t explicitly urge voters to oppose expansion, the group did not have to report its spending.

The bills introduced will now be scheduled for public hearings before legislative committees. Those advanced by the committees will then be in line for debate by the full Legislature. Bill introductions continue for another seven legislative days.