The Legislature's Judiciary Committee sent a bill to the floor Tuesday that originally had required a doctor to inform women of a disputed treatment capable of "reversing" a medication abortion.

But a committee amendment adopted Tuesday afternoon curtailed much of the original measure (LB209) by Sen. Joni Albrecht of Thurston, reflecting what senators said was a lack of scientific consensus on the procedure.

Similar to legislation that went before lawmakers in other states this year, Albrecht's bill, as originally introduced, required the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to publish on its website information for women who took the first of two doses of mifepristone.

Also known as RU-486, mifepristone when taken in concert with misoprostol blocks the body's production of progesterone, a hormone needed to sustain a pregnancy, resulting in a medical abortion.

An amendment adopted by the Judiciary Committee on a 5-3 vote removed language requiring doctors to tell women it was possible to reverse the effects of the medication and struck language requiring DHHS to put information about reversing the effects of a medication abortion on its website.

In its place, the amendment requires DHHS to post information on its website that includes the following statement:

"Research indicates that mifepristone alone is not always effective in ending a pregnancy. You may still have a viable pregnancy after taking mifepristone. If you change your mind and want to continue your pregnancy after taking mifepristone, it may not be too late."

The website must also include contact information to help women find a medical professional who can help them continue with their pregnancy.

Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said the bill "has been pared down considerably" by the amendment because there is a lack of scientific evidence on the matter.

Abortion-reversal bills were introduced in several states beginning in 2015 following a study later determined to be dubious by the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study said a medication abortion could be reversed if women who took mifepristone were injected with progesterone rather than taking the second drug, misoprostol, but the study was not scientific and the results could not be reproduced.

Instead, the review found that failing to take the second medication, which fewer than 0.004% of women chose to do between 2000 and 2012, according to data obtained from the manufacturer of the drug, was just as likely to result in a failed medication abortion.

The Judiciary Committee amendment reflects the scientific findings of the systematic review.

"We believe that states mandating that health care providers give patients information about an unproven and experimental therapy is a disturbing intrusion into the relationship between physicians and their patients," the New England Journal of Medicine said in October 2018.

"We should all be concerned when politicians recommend treatment options over the advice of medical professionals."

Despite the review, so-called abortion-reversal bills were still introduced in the Nebraska Legislature, which is officially nonpartisan, and other majority Republican states this year.

Earlier this month, Oklahoma lawmakers sent a bill to Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, for his signature, while Monday, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed a similar measure passed in the Republican-held bicameral legislature.

Kelly, a Democrat, said the bill created confusion and could be harmful to women's health: "The practice of medicine should be left to licensed health professionals, not elected officials."

In an interview after the Judiciary Committee's vote, Albrecht said she will support the amended bill when it comes to the floor for debate by the full Legislature.

The bill still lets women who have contemplated getting an abortion or taken the first step know they have a choice, she said.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS.


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