The Nebraska Legislature passed a bill on its next-to-last day Thursday that would have the state Department of Health and Human Services provide information for women on what to do if they change their minds halfway through a medication abortion.
The bill will go to Gov. Pete Ricketts, who has declared Nebraska is a pro-life state, for his signature.
It took 10½ hours of debate to get to final passage. The vote was 36-11.
"I'm just grateful my peers hung with me for 10½ hours, and for all of Nebraska's support," said Sen. Joni Albrecht, the sponsor of the bill. "It's probably a bill that I've had more positive emails on than any other."
The debate has centered around whether the procedure used to "reverse" a medication abortion — administering doses of progesterone after the first abortion pill, mifepristone, and not taking the second pill in order to "rescue" the pregnancy — is legitimate science.
Even without taking progesterone, it's estimated up to half of women who take only mifepristone would continue their pregnancies, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Albrecht said the bill is about informed consent. Fifty-five percent of abortions in Nebraska are done with the two-pill medication option.
The Judiciary Committee amended the bill before sending it to the floor of the Legislature for debate in order not to force doctors to give information to women that is not scientifically proven.
Lincoln Sen. Anna Wishart said she was concerned about what the department would offer on its website for information about the reversal process. She put up an amendment, but then withdrew it, that would have required HHS to ensure the information was accurate.
Omaha Sen. Megan Hunt said she liked nothing about the bill. The process of reversing a medication abortion lacked scientific validity, she said. She, too, was concerned HHS would refer women to unethical organizations.
When asked this week about how the department will inform women, HHS spokeswoman Leah Bucco-White said, "generally speaking, if the bill does pass and is signed into law, we will look at information options for the website that meet the requirements of the law. It is somewhat premature to provide further details since the bill has not yet passed."
Sen. Robert Clements of Elmwood said he has seen reports of successful reversals in 46 states, including 500 lives saved and women given a "second chance at choice."
Omaha Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh told senators if they want to reduce abortion in Nebraska, they should ensure women have access to food assistance, child care services and paid parental child care leave.
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