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Pro-choice protest

An abortion rights activist holds a sign at a protest on July 13, 2022 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo: John Parra/Getty Images for MoveOn)

Nebraska Abortion Ban 3 Votes Short Shows Why Midterms 'Matter So Damn Much'

"Poll after poll has shown that a majority of Nebraskans support abortion rights," said the state's Democratic Party chair. "But there are radical Republican senators that will keep trying to erode reproductive rights."

Julia Conley

Abortion rights advocates in Nebraska expressed relief Monday after narrowly avoiding a legislative session devoted to further restricting abortion access in the state, but cautioned that the tide could quickly shift if pro-choice candidates aren't elected in large numbers in November.

"Voters have an opportunity to defend legal access to abortion at the polls this November by electing more Democrats to the Legislature, Congress, and the governor's office."

Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, who strongly supports forced pregnancy, announced Monday that anti-choice state lawmakers lacked the votes in the state Legislature to pass a 12-week aborton ban, which would replace Nebraska's 20-week ban. A special session that had been planned for the summer was canceled as a result.

Thirty lawmakers said they would support the legislation, and 33 are needed to break the Legislature's filibuster. During the regular session, forced pregnancy advocates also failed to gather sufficient support to pass a "trigger ban," which would have banned all abortions following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

"Nebraska anti-abortion politicians are afraid of the issue," Democratic state Sen. Megan Hunt told the Associated Press. "They know that the majority of Nebraskans support the right to abortion, and they know that if they brought us into a special session, they simply wouldn't win."

Kate Smith, senior director of news content for Planned Parenthood, said that "for now, the state's abortion laws won't be changing," but cautioned against counting Ricketts's decision as the final word on the matter in Nebraska.

"To put this in context, three state senator seats are what's protecting abortion access in Nebraska right now," said Smith, "This is exactly why November elections matter so damn much."

Thirty-nine Republicans are running in state Senate elections in Nebraska this fall. The GOP has made clear that at the federal level, it plans to impose a nationwide abortion ban as soon as it gains the legislative control it needs to do so. Last Friday, legislators and the Republican governor in Indiana approved a near-total ban on abortion care that will go into effect next month.

Ricketts on Monday told reporters to "stay tuned" to see the steps forced-birth proponents will continue to take to cut off abortion access in Nebraska.

While Republican lawmakers are set on ending abortion access across the country, Ricketts's decision came days after voters in Kansas vehemently rejected a constitutional amendment which would have allowed the state Legislature to pass an abortion ban.

"Abortion bans aren't popular," Hunt told the Nebraska Examiner.

More than 60% of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or almost all cases, according to a Pew Research Center poll taken in June.

On Ricketts's monthly call-in radio show, a voter told the governor Monday that "the majority [of Nebraskans] are kind of okay with Roe v. Wade."

The ACLU of Nebraska called on voters to remain engaged while Republicans hold off on advancing abortion ban legislation.

"This is good news," said Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb of Monday's announcement, "but we must remain vigilant when the regular session convenes in January. Poll after poll has shown that a majority of Nebraskans support abortion rights. But there are radical Republican senators that will keep trying to erode reproductive rights."

"Governor Ricketts and his radical Republicans do not have the votes to further infringe on our privacy and rights to make our own health decisions," Kleeb added. "Voters have an opportunity to defend legal access to abortion at the polls this November by electing more Democrats to the Legislature, Congress, and the governor's office."


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