This week Nebraska has passed not one but two anti-choice bills. On Monday, a bill was approved which mandates that women seeking an abortion must be screened for mental health problems. The second bill was passed on Tuesday, effectively criminalizing abortions at and after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the unfounded speculation that a fetus can feel pain beginning at 20 weeks. These laws greatly restrict women’s access to reproductive health care and also aim to challenge Roe v. Wade.
As Robin Marty at RH Reality Check duly notes, the bills are in direct contradiction of each other: one law (LB594) claims that before 20 weeks a woman’s mental health status should be extensively evaluated before obtaining an abortion, however the law that bans procedures after 20 weeks (LB1103) disregards the impact of mental illness by failing to include an exemption for the women’s mental health. Furthermore, there is lack of evidence that supports the assertion that fetal pain exists. As Caitlin Borgmann, a law professor at The City University of New York, succinctly states "There is certainly no solid scientific evidence establishing that a fetus can perceive pain at these earlier stages, so any court decisions to uphold such broader laws could only do so by disregarding the importance of good scientific evidence.” It is inconsistencies like this that cause conservatives claims to care about the health and welfare of women to fall extremely flat.
The passage of this bill is clearly an attempt to bring anti-abortion cases before the Supreme Court and challenge Roe v. Wade. This abortion ban is the first law in the nation that restricts abortion on a premise other than viability, which contradicts over 3 decades of judicial precedent set by Roe v Wade. As the liberal leader of the court, Justice Stevens, is set to retire, it is crucial that Obama’s nominee be able to counter the conservative strongholds of Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito.