Several women who have had or considered abortions came to the Capitol on Friday afternoon to tell a legislative committee they wished they'd had more detailed information about what they were doing.
They told of experiences they might have avoided that caused them both physical and psychological trauma and pain.
They were testifying before the Judiciary Committee on a bill (LB300), introduced by Omaha Sen. Bob Krist, that would require four-dimensional ultrasound images of human fetuses to be posted on a dedicated, easily accessible page on a state Department of Health and Human Services web site. The ultrasounds take images of the fetus from several angles, showing facial and other features and capturing movement.
Nebraska's Informed Consent on Abortion law was passed in 1993, before 4-D ultrasound images were available. His bill would improve the law, Krist said.
It also would require any health care facilities that perform abortions to provide on their web sites a direct link to the four-dimensional images.
Krist said the Endowment for Human Development web site contains both moving ultrasound images and still shots.
Greg Schleppenbach of the Nebraska Catholic Conference said the bill is common sense legislation.
"It brings this kind of material into the 21st Century," he said.
People are accustomed to accessing information on their smartphones, tablets and laptops, said Julie Schmit-Albin, director of Nebraska Right to Life.
"If we have that (informed consent) public policy in place, doesn't it behoove the state to have the most state-of-the-art, up-to-date information and not be back in the dark ages in terms of the web site?" she said.
Nancy Russell asked the committee: "What harm is just giving them the information to make a choice that will affect them for the rest of their life?"
HHS spokeswoman Kathie Osterman said the department offers the information required in state law on its web site and in a printed booklet.
The Web site version of "If you are pregnant ..." can be found by going to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services web site and typing "abortion" in the upper right-hand search box.
Tracy Durbin of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland opposed the bill, saying that -- among other objections -- it raised serious questions related to the federal interstate commerce clause. States cannot regulate activities outside their borders, she said, and her organization is based in Iowa and serves clients in several states, including Nebraska, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
Requiring Planned Parenthood to post the HHS information was the main objection to the bill, she said.
"We have no beef with what the Department of Health and Human Services puts on their web site," she said. "We believe that a woman deserves to have as much information as possible."