Friday April 9, 2010

Nebraska Advances Bill Requiring Mental Health Screenings Before Abortion

By Peter J. Smith

OMAHA, Nebraska, April 9, 2010 ( – The unicameral Nebraska legislature gave its second round of approval to a bill on Wednesday that would require abortionists to prescreen women extensively for potential physical and mental health problems before performing an abortion.

“Everywhere else in medicine we expect doctors to stay up-to-date on their specialty,” said Sen. Cap Dierks of Ewing, the bill’s main sponsor, according to the Journal Star. He then added, “Why would we want standards of care for abortions to be less than other medical procedures?”

Nebraska Senators voted 36 – 7 to approve LB 594 after adding an amendment that would require the state’s Health and Human Services Department to provide post-abortive women information about public and private agencies that offer mental health resources.

The bill will need to go through one last round of voting before it can be considered passed by the Unicameral. It would then go to the desk of Gov. Dave Heineman, who is expected to sign it.

The law would mandate that abortionists tell a woman 24 hours in advance of abortion all the risks associated with abortion itself, that no one can make her have an abortion, and that she can withdraw her consent at any time.

Second, at least one hour before the abortion, the bill would mandate that a qualified physician or mental health professional perform an assessment to determine whether the pregnant woman perceived she was being pressured into having an abortion, and evaluate “physical, psychological, emotional, demographic, or situational” risk factors cited by peer-reviewed medical journals. They would then have to write down a check-list of negative and positive risk factors, discuss them with the woman, and submit them in writing to the abortionist.

Women would have to sign a document stating that they went through the screening and are informed of any risks before going through with the abortion.

The measure also gives women who develop mental or physical problems after the abortion the right to file civil lawsuits against abortionists if they failed to give her a proper prescreening as required by the law.

In addition, the preamble to the bill repeatedly slams the U.S. Supreme Court for its Roe v. Wade decision, stating that the legislation is a response to “the legislative intrusion of the United States Supreme Court … removing the protection afforded the unborn.”

It adds that the proposed law is “in no way to be construed as legislatively encouraging abortions at any stage of unborn human development, but are rather an expression of the will of the people of the State of Nebraska and the members of the Legislature to provide protection for the life of the unborn child whenever possible.”

See related coverage by

Nebraska Moves Ahead with Abortion Ban Based on Fetal Pain