Lawmakers set sights on abortion bills

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April 26th, 2011

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Lincoln, NE – As the Nebraska Legislature enters the final six weeks of its 2011 session, abortion-related legislation is likely to get some attention.

A bill to require a doctor to be physically present when an abortion-inducing drug such as RU-486 is administered is among the bills still being held in the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee. Lincoln Senator Tony Fulton, the sponsor of LB521, said it’s aimed at preventing a kind of abortion that’s currently available in Iowa. In that state, women can come to a clinic and consult via teleconferencing with a doctor in a remote location who can then open a drawer to dispense the drugs.

Sen. Fulton wants to ban what he calls "web cam" abortions in Nebraska. (Photo courtesy Nebraska Legislature)

Supporters call the practice telemedicine, opponents call it web cam abortions. Fulton said he wants to make sure it doesn’t come to Nebraska. “I focused on these web cam abortions because it was brought to my attention,” he said. “I researched it, I was appalled that they are going on in Iowa, and my suspicion was that they are coming next to Nebraska.”

Fulton said his suspicions were reinforced when Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which operates in both Iowa and Nebraska, announced expansion plans earlier this month. Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Susan Allen said no decision has yet been made about whether abortions would be offered at the new facilities, which are proposed for North Platte, Fremont, Grand Island, Norfolk, Kearney and Hastings. And she said no expansion may take place before a five-year fundraising drive is completed. Still, Fulton said those expansion plans are increasing public pressure for his bill.

But Sen. Brad Ashford, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said that’s not necessarily a good reason to act. “Last year, we had a bill that we had quite a bit of public pressure on,” he said. “We put it out on the floor, and it was summarily enjoined …I’m very leery of some of these measures and it takes a thorough, thorough evaluation.”

Ashford said before considering Fulton’s bill, the committee is likely to deal with another abortion related proposal by Sen. Lydia Brasch of Bancroft. It would change the requirement before a woman under age 18 could get an abortion from notifying a parent to getting consent. Afterward, Ashford said he expects the committee will vote on Fulton’s proposal.

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