8-Hour Legislative Hearing On “Heartbeat” Abortion Bill Draws Big Crowd


     The Nebraska Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee took nearly 8 hours of testimony Wednesday on a so-called “heartbeat bill” outlawing abortion when cardiac activity can be detected in an embryo.

       Fetal cardiac activity is normally detected around the 6th week of pregnancy, a point before many women know they’re pregnant.

      After hearing from about 100 individuals, more opponents than supporters, the committee adjourned without taking a vote to advance the bill – which is normal procedure. A decision on whether it moves to the floor will come at a later date.

    Primary sponsor Senator Joni Albrecht of Thurston opened the testimony by saying her bill was about 1 thing: protecting babies with beating hearts from elective abortion.”  

She was also part of a heated exchange that ended the hearing.

    Ban opponent Senator Machaela Cavanaugh of Omaha grilled Albrecht on how medical providers, who could lose their medical licenses, would be able to prove any abortions they provide were for women who were raped or to save the woman’s life.

      Albrecht insisted the way Nebraska doctors handle abortions won’t change under the bill, repeating several times, “It’s going to be done however it’s done today,” even though women currently have 20 weeks to terminate a pregnancy and don’t have to report rape or incest to get an abortion.

     At one point, they yelled over each other with Cavanaugh asking, “You’re okay with women dying if this bill is passed?” and Albrecht replying “I’m not going to do this theater – I’m not going to answer that.”

      About 300 opponents rallied in the Capitol Rotunda before the hearing, a crowd that included lawmakers, medical professionals, and clergy. Senator Megan Hunt of Omaha urged the crowd to show up every time the bill comes up. 

    Hunt said “We need constant, prolonged, righteous outrage,” adding that the senators “need to feel your energy/” The rally ended with the crowd chanting “No more bans!”