Home Part of States Newsroom
Legislation won’t save babies. That’s what obstetricians do. Let them do their job.


Legislation won’t save babies. That’s what obstetricians do. Let them do their job.

May 19, 2023 | 4:00 am ET
By Brady Kerr
Legislation won’t save babies. That’s what obstetricians do. Let them do their job.
(Getty Images)

In my medical career, I’ve never experienced anything like what I witnessed and heard in the Nebraska legislative chamber Tuesday, May 16. I was embarrassed and ashamed. For the first time in my life, I felt ashamed of the state I love and call home. I now fear one of my daughters will have a child with a lethal fetal anomaly when she gets older, or that one of my kids will become trans – because I would not be able to give them the appropriate medical care they would need — care based in science and endorsed by the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The legislators debated whether the amendment banning abortions, AM 1658, is related to Legislative Bill 574 banning care for gender diverse kids. The majority decision that they are related was a disgrace. And it certainly doesn’t make it true.  The health issues in the two bills are cared for by completely different medical specialties – different kinds of doctors. Any physician asserting in a court of law the two bills are related to one another would be committing perjury, in my opinion.

This legislation will not save babies. That’s what I do. That’s what obstetricians do. I would gladly invite any state senator to come to medical rounds with me or help me on call if you want to save babies. Unfortunately, I don’t think any of our legislators have the education, qualifications or experience to do so.

Those facts don’t preclude one from having an opinion. But the legislators are dealing with lives with these bills. When one of my patients dies, it crushes me. My medical colleagues and I take this very seriously. It’s unreal to me that the legislators assert they are protecting or saving babies – implying those opposing these bills are not. We also believe we are saving babies – we simply have education, training and years of experience to support our positions.

Compassion has not been discussed, but it clearly needs to be addressed. Babies deserve compassion like every other patient. Neonatologists try to save every baby we can. Sometimes we even push too hard to do so. In 2023, we can’t save them all. When we can’t, we give them compassionate care. There is nothing compassionate about forcing a baby to be born so the baby can then die minutes or hours later. To me that is cruel. My patients deserve compassion. Thankfully, lethal anomalies of that severity don’t happen every day.

Supporters of AM 1658/LB 574 won’t have to join me when I now have to tell expectant mothers they have to carry their baby to term and then watch their baby die — for defects like limb-body wall, anencephaly, pentalogy of Cantrell or countless other rare syndromes.

When a family chooses to carry any of those babies to term and watch them die, I support that decision. I’ll be there to help them.  I’d do that because I respect their right to have personal, spiritual and religious beliefs that may be different than mine. The AAP guides us in these situations: Pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists respect families and their religious or spiritual beliefs and collaborate with them to develop treatment plans to promote their children’s health.

Many who support this legislation cite their faith as reasoning. I also have faith — mine teaches me humility. When I can’t make a patient better, I’m reminded of how little I truly can help sometimes, despite all I’ve learned.

The amended bill allows the Nebraska chief medical officer, a political appointee of the governor’s and currently an ear, nose and throat surgeon, to have authority on gender care. How can that be legal or wise? Medicine already has numerous safeguards in place that regulate and police medical care. Does it make sense to have a ENT physician regulate gender care — an area in which he has no experience or expertise? Why not let me, a neonatologist, have final say on all policy and standards for the entire medical field of ENT surgery?

Some senators spoke about compromise Tuesday. And I normally embrace diplomatic compromises. But when applied to infringing on parents’ rights to make informed, potentially life-saving decisions about the health of their child — it seems like an attacker running up to me and saying he’s going to cut off both my arms but will compromise and only cut off one. The bills you are proposing take away parental rights and autonomy.

We physicians are NOT evil. We are not the enemy of the State of Nebraska.

Please let us do the jobs we have trained for and don’t take away the rights of Nebraskans.