Repeal of abortion reversal language considered

Health care providers in Nebraska no longer would be required to provide certain information to women seeking abortions under a bill heard by the Judiciary Committee Feb. 21.

Sen. Megan Hunt
Sen. Megan Hunt

The Legislature passed a bill in 2019 that requires medical providers to inform a woman seeking an abortion that mifepristone—the first of two drugs administered during a medical abortion—is not always effective in ending a pregnancy.

The state Department of Health and Human Services is required to publish information on the agency’s website about the effectiveness of mifepristone as well as contact information for medical assistance.

LB872, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Megan Hunt, would repeal this language from state statute. She said Nebraska should embrace evidence-based practices, not promote or encourage “bad” medicine.

“The legislation that we passed last year was irresponsible and new evidence shows that the procedure recommended by [DHHS] threatens the health and safety of patients,” she said. “We should not be passing laws that encourage women to participate in an unmonitored experiment.”

Supporting the bill was Jody Steinauer, an OB-GYN and professor. The legislation enacted in 2019 is based on a theory that medication abortions can be stopped by changing the recommended drug protocol, she said, and forces doctors to give medically innacurate information that can cause harm.

“As a physician, my duty is to care for my patients based on scientific evidence,” Steinauer said. “Patients need to feel confident that they’re receiving medically accurate information that’s based on thorough and factual research.”

Meg Mikolajczyk, representing Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, also supported LB872. She said that medical providers should have the ability to use their unfettered medical judgment to counsel their patients.

“Medication abortion is safe,” Mikolajczyk said. “Forcing health care providers to give information that isn’t based in science is unsafe.”

Opposing the bill was Marion Miner, representing the Nebraska Catholic Conference. He said LB872 would repeal a law that was passed with broad support last year.

“The law [passed in 2019] is based in good science and continues to be reinforced by numerous studies, including studies done by doctors whose purpose is to sow doubt about the effectiveness of progesterone to save the baby after [a woman takes] mifepristone,” Miner said.

Karen Bowling, representing the Nebraska Family Alliance, also testified against the measure.

“We oppose LB872 because it repeals the vital work that state senators did to ensure women seeking a chemical abortion have access to all medical information,” Bowling said. “As with any medical procedure, women deserve to have all medical information to make their best-informed decision.”

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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