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Omaha woman says ‘heartbeat’ bill would inject politicians into ‘difficult’ private decisions


Omaha woman says ‘heartbeat’ bill would inject politicians into ‘difficult’ private decisions

Jan 31, 2023 | 5:08 pm ET
By Paul Hammel
Omaha woman says ‘heartbeat’ bill would inject politicians into ‘difficult’ private decisions
Abortion rights protesters gather May 3, 2022, outside the U.S. Supreme Court Building. (Jane Norman/States Newsroom)

LINCOLN — One by one, four women on Tuesday shared their traumatic, personal stories about abortion rights, urging Nebraska lawmakers to reject a proposal to further restrict the procedure.

“This legislation takes away Nebraskans’ ability to control their bodies and their future,” said Abby Waller, a 37-year-old Omaha mother, who chose an abortion after doctors said her fetus would not survive.

Abby Waller
Abby Waller of Omaha (screenshot courtesy of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Nebraska)

“It shouldn’t be up to politicians in the statehouse to make personal and private health care decisions,” Waller said.

Hearing on Wednesday

On Wednesday, a state legislative committee will hear testimony on Legislative Bill 626, the “Nebraska Heartbeat Act.” It would ban abortions once a heartbeat is detected, which is about six weeks into a pregnancy. There would be exceptions for rape, incest and the health of the mother.

Current Nebraska law bans abortion after 20 weeks.

Dozens of people are expected to testify at the public hearing on LB 626 on Wednesday afternoon.

While opponents such as Waller contend the bill is government intrusion on personal health care decisions and could force women to take extreme and dangerous means to end an unwanted pregnancy, abortion opponents maintain that life begins at conception and should be protected.

Sandy Danek of Nebraska Right to Life said she became an activist after she had a stillborn child. She is now a facilitator for a Catholic Church hospice program called “Healing Heart,” which provides support and counseling for couples facing a stillbirth.

Hospice care is an alternative

The program gives couples more time to grieve, Danek said, and a chance to hold their child before it dies.

“With hospice care, it gives them the support they need to allow their baby to come to natural death,” she said. 

But during a virtual press conference Tuesday sponsored by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Nebraska, Waller and three other women related their personal experience with barriers to an abortion.

One, Kacie Ware of Omaha, said she was abused and raped by a much older man and became pregnant during high school.

She said she believes that the heartbeat bill would have prevented her from getting an abortion because she had to go through the time-consuming “judicial bypass” procedure required of a minor to get an abortion without parental permission.

Ban would ‘end safe abortions’

“I would have done anything to end the pregnancy,” said Ware, now the mother of two. “Abortion bans are only going to end safe abortions.”

Waller said she was excited to learn that she was pregnant with her second child, but genetic tests indicated that her baby had Downs syndrome and that her brain wasn’t developing correctly and had a heart condition.

Doctors told her the baby had only a 10% of survival, and even if she survived, she would only live a few months and would have to be hooked to a ventilator.

Waller said she and her husband made the “difficult” choice of abortion, which was performed two years ago. She said that since genetic testing is allowed only after 10 weeks, the heartbeat bill would have forced her to “wait for my child to die on her own.”

Hospice care

Danek, of Nebraska Right to Life, said she often hears from couples who want to bring their child to term, even when they know they might not be viable.

Walk of Life
Opponents of abortion rights filled the streets of Lincoln near the State Capitol on Saturday for the annual “Walk of Life” demonstration. (Screenshot from Nebraska Right to Life)

In 2017, the Legislature passed the Compassion and Care for Medically Challenging Pregnancies Act, which requires the state to provide information about services pertaining to perinatal hospice care.

Danek said she has been counseling grieving couples for 30 years and said taking such pregnancies to birth allows couples to “naturally” process their grief and “make decisions that are best for their child” as opposed to making the quick decision to abort.