Nebraska struggling to OK ban despite anti-abortion history

Oct 25, 2022, 9:04 AM | Updated: 9:32 am

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska Republicans are expected to dominate as usual at the polls in November and retain control of the officially nonpartisan Legislature. They face a far tougher challenge flipping enough seats to push through a statewide abortion ban.

The Supreme Court decision overturning the constitutional right to abortion has injected a degree of uncertainty into elections, even in some of the nation’s most reliably red states. Abortion opponents in Nebraska are hoping to avoid a repeat of what happened this summer in neighboring Kansas, where voters overwhelming rejected a ballot measure that would have paved the way for an abortion ban there.

“Whether we like it or not, Nebraska is now a destination state for abortion,” said David Zebolsky, chairman of Nebraskans Embracing Life. “We’re supporting strong pro-life legislative candidates in the November election to change that.”

Even with Republicans considered a lock to maintain control of Nebraska’s unique one-chamber Legislature, they need to gain at least two seats to end the state’s status as the nation’s most unlikely harborage for abortion services. Under legislative rules, some measures — including an abortion ban — can be blocked by the minority if supporters don’t get at least 33 votes in the 49-member Senate.

The Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade enabled other conservative states to quickly outlaw most abortions, but the Nebraska ban received only 31 votes — two short of the number needed to avoid a filibuster.

Nebraska Republicans’ hopes to outlaw abortions were thwarted again weeks later, when Gov. Pete Ricketts opted not to call a special session to enact a ban because backers were, at that time, three votes short.

Such setbacks are odd given Nebraska’s history as a leader in abortion restrictions. It enacted the country’s first law banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the disputed theory that a fetus at that point can feel pain.

The upcoming election could give supporters the votes they need for a ban, or it could leave Nebraska as a rare state where Republicans control nearly all aspects of government but allow abortions to continue.

Nebraska’s tug-of-war over abortion comes at a time when the issue has roiled politics across the country. Besides Kansas, voters in Kentucky will decide next month the fate of a proposed constitutional amendment that would eliminate the right to abortion in the state. The red state of Montana will have a “born alive” measure on the ballot there, requiring health care providers to take “all medically appropriate and reasonable actions to preserve the life” of an infant born alive, including after an attempted abortion. Doctors have warned that the measure would force them to prolong the suffering of infants born with fatal deformities.

And in Georgia, which could decide control of the U.S. Senate, abortion has taken an outsized role in the neck-and-neck race between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and his Republican challenger, former football star Herschel Walker. Walker, a staunch anti-abortion proponent, has been plagued by recent claims that he paid for a woman’s 2009 abortion and later fathered a child with her.

Republicans who have historically championed anti-abortion causes appeared to be caught flat-footed in the the wake of the judicial branch overturning Roe, a move that was unpopular with a majority of Americans according to polls taken ahead of the decision. An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll conducted after the ruling revealed a majority of Americans want Congress to pass a law guaranteeing access to legal abortion nationwide.

That polling has led Republican candidates who would normally tout their anti-abortion credentials to back away from the issue this election cycle. In Nebraska, some Republican candidates in and around Omaha and Lincoln, which are less conservative than the state’s more rural reaches, are tailoring their messages on abortion with that in mind. Conversely, Democrats who would normally avoid the issue of abortion so as not to rile voters in a conservative state are now putting the issue front-and-center of their campaigns.

President Joe Biden promised during a speech last week in Washington to push a bill that codifies Roe v. Wade if Democrats control enough seats in Congress to pass it.

Omaha state Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh, one of the most vocal opponents of a failed “trigger bill” backed by Republicans last session that would have outlawed nearly all abortions, has placed her support for abortion access at the top of her campaign website. She cited an ACLU-commissioned poll in March that showed Nebraskans opposed to a total abortion ban by a 20-point margin.

Her opponent, Christian Mirch, had until recently been just as vocal about his support for banning abortion. He has attended anti-abortion rallies and stated in the Nebraska Catholic Voter Guide his support for an abortion ban “from the moment of conception.” But he seems to have backpedaled on that stance in the wake of blowback from the the overturning of Roe.

“We’ve gotten away from that representative form of government in recent years,” he said. “We can’t be constituencies of one.”

Asked about polling that shows most Americans opposing the overturning of Roe, Mirch countered that “we haven’t done that polling in this district.”

Cavanaugh said Mirch has been knocking on doors in the district and telling some voters that he and Cavanaugh have essentially the same views on abortion. Mirch said he simply has assured voters that he would not do anything that would endanger invitro fertilization treatments.

Cavanaugh isn’t buying it.

“You don’t lie about your position unless you know it’s going to cost you votes,” she said.

Of the 15 Nebraska lawmakers who voted to block the abortion ban bill, eight are facing reelection challenges or not running.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln political science professor John Hibbing said he expects Nebraska Republicans will pick up the seats they need to ban abortions, but he notes the Supreme Court ruling “has put pressure on Republicans that they haven’t felt before.”

Since the ruling, Planned Parenthood clinics in Lincoln and Omaha — two of the three in Nebraska that provide abortion services — have seen an increase in the number of people from outside the state seeking them. Andi Curry Grubb, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Nebraska, said many of the women the clinics are seeing have few resources to allow them to travel hundreds of miles from their homes.

“I know we had one patient who drove a U-Haul from Texas to Nebraska to get to one of our clinics, because it was the only vehicle they could rent within a reasonable price range,” Grubb said. “You get that sense that the burden in on people who need access to care the most.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

New California oil well ban put on hold for voters to decide

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s new law banning new oil and gas wells near homes, schools and other community sites has been put on hold until after voters decide next year whether to throw it out, officials announced Friday. Opponents of Senate Bill 1137 gathered more than 623,000 valid voter signatures to put a referendum […]
22 hours ago
FILE - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks after being sworn in to begin his second term during an ina...
Associated Press

Florida lawmakers to meet next week on Disney, immigration

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida lawmakers will meet next week to complete a state takeover of Walt Disney World’s self-governing district and debate proposals on immigration and election crimes, as Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to leverage national political fissures ahead of an expected White House run. Republican leaders of the Legislature, in coordination with […]
22 hours ago
FILE - Johnny Thai, 11, receives the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a pediatric vaccine clinic for chil...
Associated Press

California won’t require COVID vaccine to attend schools

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Children in California won’t have to get the coronavirus vaccine to attend schools, state public health officials confirmed Friday, ending one of the last major restrictions of the pandemic in the nation’s most populous state. Gov. Gavin Newsom first announced the policy in 2021, saying it would eventually apply to all […]
22 hours ago
Part of the 988helpline.org website is photographed Friday, Feb. 3, 2023. A cyberattack caused a ne...
Associated Press

Feds say cyberattack caused suicide helpline’s outage

WASHINGTON (AP) — A cyberattack caused a nearly daylong outage of the nation’s new 988 mental health helpline late last year, federal officials told The Associated Press Friday. Lawmakers are now calling for the federal agency that oversees the program to prevent future attacks. “On December 1, the voice calling functionality of the 988 Lifeline […]
22 hours ago
FILE - Workers at the Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tenn., walk by a Nissan Altima sedan on May 15, 2012....
Associated Press

US board clears path for mini-union vote at big Nissan plant

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Fewer than 100 employees out of the thousands who work at Nissan’s auto assembly plant in Tennessee can hold a vote on whether to form a small union, the federal labor board has decided. The ruling Thursday by the National Labor Relations Board overturns a June 2021 decision by one of […]
22 hours ago
A person gambles as betting odds for NFL football's Super Bowl are displayed on monitors at the Cir...
Associated Press

Super Bowl prop betting increasing in popularity

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Jay Kornegay was behind the counter in 2004 when someone approached with $5,000 to bet on the Super Bowl but had no idea how to decide. The man, not a regular sports bettor, thought for a few moments and decided to put it all on the Carolina Panthers to score exactly […]
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
Nebraska struggling to OK ban despite anti-abortion history