Christensen expects court challenge to abortion bill
A controversial bill that would ban late-term abortions based on fetal pain rather than viability advanced out of the Nebraska Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Mark Christensen, who serves on the Judiciary Committee, said this morning at the McCook Area Chamber of Conference that he expects the bill to be challenged in court.
The bill would adopt the "Abortion Pain Prevention Act," that states, except in the case of a medical emergency, no abortion shall be performed by a doctor if the probable gestational age of the unborn child is 20 or more weeks, a time when some experts think the fetus can feel pain.
Current state law bans abortions if the fetus can survive outside the womb. Typical viability occurs at about 18 to 24 weeks.
The bill was advanced by a 5-3 vote, with a lot of "frustration discussion," Christensen said. Essentially, it prohibits abortion based on fetal pain rather than viability.
A related bill that also advanced out of the Judiciary Committee was LB 594, which would create the Women's Health Protection Act. The bill would require a reasonable evaluation of risk factors (such as physical, psychological, emotional, demographic, or situational) before an abortion is performed. It also authorizes civil remedies against doctors performing the abortion if they fail to comply with the act.
As late as these bills have appeared, there will still be time to debate them due to the quick work senators have done with the budget, Christensen said.
Lawmakers also advanced on second round a constitutional amendment that would eliminate the state treasurer's office. If approved on the third on final vote, the amendment would go to the voters on the statewide November election ballot.
The bill is designed to save the state some dollars, but exactly how much that would be is not known yet, Christensen said.
Christensen said this morning that he testified on the bill over his concern that eliminating an elected office would take away the vote of the people.
The position would be placed under the governor's office, with duties spread out to other departments, a process taking four years.
In response to questions, Christensen also commented on some other bills winding their way through the Legislature, including:
* LB 510, which creates the Nebraska Crime Victim Fund and would provide funding to vocational programs at the Nebraska Department of Corrections Work Ethic Camp. This new fund would come from one-dollar surcharges assessed on defendant fines or other penalties for state or local criminal and traffic offenses.
The collected funds would be distributed to several programs, including comprehensive crime victim assistance programs and non-profit organizations working for the benefit of the crime victim.
Under a proposed amendment, 25 percent of the funds would go to Re-entry Cash Fund. This fund would be used by the department for tuition, fees, and other costs associated with reentry and reintegration programs offered to offenders that are placed in incarceration work camps, such as the WEC.
Christensen said it advanced out the Judiciary Committee unanimously, except for one senator in opposition. This senator believed it would only benefit those in Southwest Nebraska, he said, although the majority of offenders/inmates at the WEC who participate in the welding program currently come from and return to the eastern part of the state.
* LB 1072, that would change provisions related to the Community College Foundation and Equalization Aid Act, that changes the funding formula for community colleges. The bill would provide new categories and factor weightings in determining reimbursable educational units, provides additional duties for the Coordinating Commission for Post secondary Education with respect to community colleges and makes modifications to community college role and mission statutes. The bill also makes membership in an association of community college boards permissive rather than mandatory. Christensen said he is supporting the bill as it would apply to Mid-Plains Community College.
Christensen also noted that an appeal has been filed on the District Court ruling that upheld the occupation tax on irrigated acres.