Diocesan News

Pro-life Legislative Efforts Continue to Break Ground in Nebraska

LINCOLN (SNR) - Three months have passed since Nebraska’s new Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (LB 1103) took effect. Without a whisper of challenge from abortion "rights" supporters, the Unicameral convened in January with various senators introducing a number of new bills supporting pro-life concerns.

The lack of opposition to LB 1103 is wholly unexpected.

"It is almost a given that innovative abortion legislation will be challenged immediately upon or prior to its enactment date," noted Julie Schmidt-Albin, executive director of Nebraska Right to Life.

Indeed, when Governor Dave Heineman signed LB 1103 last April, there were a number of complaints in the national media.

"If some of these other anti-abortion bills have been chipping away at Roe v. Wade, this takes an ax to it," Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), told The New York Times at the time.

Indeed, opposing senators in the Unicameral requested Speaker Mike Flood to move the Act’s implementation date out three months so that they had time to craft a legal challenge.

Senator Flood agreed to change LB 1103’s date from July 15 to Oct. 15. However, nothing ever materialized in the way of opposition to the Act.

"When October 15th came and went with no legal challenge in sight, we knew we were on solid ground in terms of the documentation laid down in the legislative record with this bill," Mrs. Schmidt-Albin said.

LB1103 bases its legality on a precedent set by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Writing the majority opinion of Gonzales v. Carhart, 2003, Justice Kennedy suggested that abortion could be restricted by states even before the typical standard of the unborn child’s viability – typically 22-24 weeks gestation.

To date, no abortions "rights" organization has found a legal way to protest LB 1103. Even Planned Parenthood of the Heartland quietly accepted the new legislation.

"Planned Parenthood of the Heartland believes that LB 1103 is a bad law for women," spokeswoman Marcia Dorhout said in an October statement to the Omaha World-Herald. "We will, however, continue to [operate] within the confines of this regulation."

Meanwhile, the state’s most famous late-term abortionist, LeRoy Carhart, has had to respond by trying to set up shop in other states.

Those states – and a number of others – may see legislation similar to Nebraska’s LB 1103 soon.

"I’ve had calls from other states close to us," Speaker Flood said.

Mrs. Schmidt-Albin has been working closely with National Right to Life to assist lobbyists from other states who are interested in achieving the same sort of legislature in their own states.

"The Nebraska law has given a shot in the arm to the pro-life movement in other states," she said. "While we may not yet have five U.S. Supreme Court justices who are willing to overturn Roe v. Wade, we are hitting it from all angles with state legislation."

Encouraged by the success of LB 1103, Nebraska senators have crafted a number of other bills that could help move the state toward a more decidedly pro-life environment.

Introduced by Omaha Senator Pete Pirsch, LB 461’s Freedom of Conscience Act enables medical professionals to opt out of providing procedures that conflict with their religious beliefs, with an exception for cases in which the patient would be in danger of dying or being injured without it.

District 39 Senator Beau McCoy introduced LB 22  Abortion Opt-Out of Healthcare, a bill that will prevent Nebraska tax revenue to be used to pay for abortions procured through the soon-to-be-implemented federal health care plan.

LB 51, an act that mandates a patient transfer agreement between health clinics and hospitals is being championed by District 10 Senator Bob Krist. This bill could save the lives of women in danger after botched abortions, as well as children who survive abortion attempts.

Lincoln Senator Tony Fulton is behind a bill that would prevent Nebraska doctors from delivering medical care by teleconference, a direct response to Iowa’s system that allows women to receive abortion drugs from doctors in other cities who have no personal interaction with the patient.

A number of other bills that support the pro-life cause are also in the works. Speaker Flood is confident that many will succeed.

"My bill last year got 38 votes out of 49," he said. "That’s a pretty strong statement from the Unicameral."

Greg Schleppenbach, director of the Bishops’ Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities, added his own suggestions:

"Stay connected to the Legislative process by doing two things," he recommended.

"First, get on my mail or e-mail lists," he recommended. His office sends out status reports and notifies supporters when action is needed.

"Second," Mr. Schleppenbach continued, "bookmark the website of the Nebraska Legislature: www.nebraskalegislature.gov."

The site contains the full text of each bill, plus its current status and scheduled public hearings. Speaker Flood heartily encouraged any concerned citizen to attend the hearings and speak up in favor of these pro-life bills.

Viewers can also watch committee hearings and floor debate, and find any senator’s contact information to offer support and insight.

Above all, Mr. Schleppenbach doesn’t want anyone to forget that the pro-life movement is a spiritual battle. His counsel for all who want to support these efforts:

"Pray, fast and live faithfully, joyfully and zealously the vocation God has bestowed on them," he said.


Nebraska’s Annual Walk for Life Scheduled for Jan. 29

Abortion Survivor Melissa Ohden to Speak

By S.L. Hansen

LINCOLN (SNR) - On Saturday, Jan. 29, all persons who believe in the sanctity of life will have a chance to join Nebraska Right to Life in demonstrating their conviction that all human life is sacred. The keynote speaker will be Melissa Ohden of Sioux City, Iowa.

Mrs. Ohden survived a failed saline infusion abortion in 1977. When she was approximately six months gestation, her biological mother – a young college student – sought to end Mrs. Ohden’s life through the second-trimester procedure.

Instead of being born dead as expected, Mrs. Ohden emerged from her mother’s womb alive, five days after the procedure.

"Although I was initially left for dead, the nurses and doctors quickly realized that I was alive, and they provided me with the medical care needed to sustain my life," Mrs. Ohden said.

Though her early days were marked by respiratory distress, seizures and jaundice, Mrs. Ohden was adopted by loving parents who saw to it that she received the care, love and acceptance that she needed.

Mrs. Ohden grew up to earn a master’s degree in social work, which she has used to care for victims of substance abuse, mental health disorders, domestic violence, and sexual assault. She has also worked for child welfare. In recent years, she has become a public speaker whose personal story touches hearts and changes minds.

The weekend’s pro-life events will begin Saturday at 9 a.m. with Mass celebrated at St. Mary Church, directly across from the State Capitol in Lincoln at 14th and K streets. Parking is available in the garage directly north of the parish grounds. Walk for Life participants can also park around the capitol, at any downtown garage or in any open metered spots. (Bring quarters for metered parking.)

Celebrating the Mass will be Bishop William Dendinger of Grand Island and Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha. Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz will not be able to attend, as he will be conducting ordinations for the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter in Denton that morning.

The homily will be delivered by Msgr. Philip J. Reilly of New York, who in 1989 founded the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, Inc., to focus on prayer efforts and sidewalk counseling outside of abortion clinics. He has counseled and prayed on the streets outside abortion clinics for more than 20 years, five days a week.

After the Walk for Life events, Msgr. Reilly will present a workshop on the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants approach to "sidewalk ministry" at abortion facilities. The event will be held at the St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center at 16th and Q streets. Topics will include spirituality, prayerful presence, and the art of sidewalk counseling. There is no fee or registration required for the workshop.

The Walk will begin on the west side of the State Capitol with a short program that begins at 10 a.m. Participants will proceed eight blocks down 14th Street to the University of Nebraska Student Union.

Pro-life literature, hot beverages and baked goods will be available for sale before and after Mrs. Ohden’s keynote address. The bake sale helps defray the cost of the event.

For more information about the weekend’s events, contact Julie Schmidt-Albin at 402-438-4802. To donate items for the bake sale, simply bring your wrapped baked goods to the south door of the Student Union beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday. Or, call 402-438-4802 to have your donation picked up Friday, Jan. 28.


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