Nebraska Passes Landmark
Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act
By Dave Andrusko
Combining years of planning,
enthusiastic grassroots support, the backing of key legislators, and
the invaluable help of National Right to Life, Nebraska has passed
the landmark “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.” Pro-life
Gov. Dave Heineman signed LB 1103 into law on April 13 following
passage by the unicameral Nebraska legislature on a vote of 44-5.
NRLC State Legislative
Director Mary Spaulding Balch summarized the thrust of the law in
just nine words: “You don’t kill unborn children capable of feeling
pain.” The law, basing its conclusion on an enormous body of medical
research, sets the demarcation at which the unborn child can feel
pain at 20 weeks.
The law does not go into
effect until October 15. Pro-abortion organizations such as the
Center for Reproductive Rights, have grumbled about possibly
challenging the law in court. If such lawsuit were brought, it might
be on behalf of, or in addition to, LeRoy Carhart, who specializes
second and third trimester abortions. Carhart was a party to two
abortion cases that were decided by the United States Supreme Court.
LB 1103 bans abortion except
in cases of medical emergency (to prevent the death of the mother or
to prevent severe and long lasting physical damage to a major bodily
organ), or to increase the probability of a live birth.
Balch noted the
unintentional (and ugly) irony of a quote from Nancy Northrup,
president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. Northrup told the
Associated Press, “Courts have been chipping away at abortion
rights...this would be like taking a huge hacksaw to the rights.”
don’t need coursework in fetal anatomy to know that babies this
mature will suffer excruciating pain as they are being torn apart,”
Balch said. “People who know nothing about abortion ‘get it.’”
Asked what are some of the
key issues LB1103 will raise in court, Balch listed two.
This law (1) “acknowledges
that states have an interest in unborn children and an interest in
protecting them,” she said. (2) The law also “closes a major
loophole in state laws.”
In the 37 years since the
Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, technological improvements in
fetal care have moved the point of viability back from the third
trimester to 22-24 weeks. But alongside those breakthroughs “there’s
been an avalanche of new information about the unborn child,
including demonstrating that she is pain-capable at 20 weeks,” Balch
told NRL News.
is one line,” Balch said. “The state of Nebraska is saying there is
another one: the point at which an unborn child is pain-sensitive.”
And there was plenty of
expert testimony made available to legislators, said Julie
Schmit-Albin, executive director of Nebraska Right to Life. “Experts
from specialists in anesthesiology and maternal/fetal health
testified that the unborn child feels pain by 20 weeks gestation at
LB 1103’s committee hearing on February 25, she said.
we didn’t know in 1973 when Roe v. Wade was foisted upon the nation
we know now because of such technological advances as in-utero
surgery and 4-D ultrasound,” said Julie Schmit-Albin, executive
director of Nebraska Right to Life.
Opponents repeated the tired
old misnomer that there is no medical evidence that unborn children
can experience pain at 20 weeks. In fact, there is much.
What few people know is that
the pain the unborn child experiences could even be worse! (See
Glover and Fisk, Fetal pain: implications for research and practice,
British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology; September 1999,
Vol.106, pp. 881-886.) For much more evidence that the unborn child
is pain-capable, go to www.doctorsonfetalpain.com.
Balch explained that
pro-abortionists count on media ignorance regarding what the Supreme
Court has actually said. “The Justices have never addressed the
issue of an unborn child’s pain,” Balch said. “If/when they do it
would be a case of ‘first impression,’ as lawyers put it.”
She added, “We look forward
to debating that in other state legislatures and in the courts.”
Balch praised the work of
the Nebraska legislature and particularly Speaker of the Legislature
Mike Flood, who introduced the measure. “The bill, and unborn
children, could not have had a better advocate,” she said.
Balch offered high praise
for Schmit-Albin. “Julie did a wonderful job of shepherding the bill
through the legislature,” Balch said.
When opponents pushed to
weaken the bill, Balch said, “Julie pushed back.” She was determined
not to have a bill “that was amended into meaninglessness,” Balch
added, “and as a result Julie helped produce a groundbreaking bill.”