Defending human life at the Capitol

     Friday, 24 March 2017

The week of March 13 saw several attacks on the dignity of human life. These attacks came from three pieces of legislation that received their committee hearings: LB450 (doctor-prescribed suicide); LB120 (free contraceptive services for the poor); and LB529 (minor child’s ability to obtain an abortion without parental consent).

LB450—Doctor-Prescribed Suicide: Sen. Ernie Chambers (representing North Omaha) introduced legislation that would legalize doctor-prescribed suicide. LB450 essentially creates legal immunity for doctors to assist terminally ill patients commit suicide.

Last year when this bill was introduced, the committee hearing was extensive. Proponents for doctor-prescribed suicide lined up, one after another, to share stories of excruciating pain and suffering at the end of life. This year, however, there were only two proponents, one of which included the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Like last year, a strong opposition was present and vocal. Opposition consisted of physicians, disability rights representatives, academics, counselors, faith groups, and right to life organizations. The strongest advocates were the medical community and disability rights representatives.

Medical community representatives testified that advancements in palliative and hospice care are such that nobody should experience agonizing suffering and a painful death. They were also emphatic that the medical profession’s purpose is to heal, not kill.

Disability rights representatives highlighted the reality that individuals with disabilities are often viewed as having a low quality of life and easily subjected to coercion and duress. These realities make individuals with disabilities targets for doctor-prescribed suicide.

It is unclear whether this legislation will advance out of committee. Nevertheless, it has not received a “priority” designation by any Senator which means that, even if advanced from committee, it would have difficulty receiving any time for debate by the whole legislature.

LB120—Contraceptive Services for Low-Income Individuals. Sen. Paul Schumacher (representing Platte County and northern Colfax County) introduced legislation that would expand access to taxpayer-funded and government-provided contraceptive services to more low-income individuals.

Sen. Schumacher’s underlying rationale for LB120 is essentially the following: the poor (and their children) cost the state too much money because of their use of government welfare programs; therefore, they should have greater access to free contraception to reduce the number of those born into poverty. Proponents were marshalled in, one after another, including organizations like Planned Parenthood and the Women’s Fund of Omaha.

The proposed legislation is bad policy for many reasons, the least of which is the underlying rationale of population control. Many of the approved contraceptives that would be accessible have the potential to be abortifacient (thus ending the life of an unborn child). Contraception undermines both the unitive and procreative aspects of the sexual act properly reserved for marriage. As well, LB120 promotes risky behavior with negative health consequences rather than promotes healthy choices like abstinence and chastity.
LB120 is unlikely to advance out of legislative committee.

LB529—Minor’s Ability to Obtain Abortion without Parental Consent. Sen. Burke Harr (representing the Benson area in Omaha) introduced a legislative bill that would amend a statute requiring a minor child to obtain written, notarized consent from a parent or guardian to obtain an abortion. In the absence of consent from a parent or guardian, the minor child could seek a “judicial bypass” whereby a judge would deem the minor child sufficiently mature and well-informed to obtain an abortion.

Sen. Harr argued LB529 was not intended to expand a minor child’s ability to obtain an abortion, but meant to ensure the statute’s consistency with the Supreme Court of the United States’ abortion jurisprudence. LB529’s proponents revealed that their concern was not simply clarification of the current law, but ultimately to strike down any “obstacle” to abortion for minor children, including the requirement to obtain parental consent or approval from a judge. In short, pro-abortion advocates reiterated their desire for unfettered access to abortion, even for children.

Ultimately, LB529 is an unnecessary clarification since the current judicial bypass law already meets the constitutional requirements of the Supreme Court’s misguided abortion case law.
There is a likelihood that LB529 could advance from the Judiciary Committee, but it has not received a “priority” designation.

Please keep the Nebraska Catholic Conference in prayer as we defend human life!