Medication abortion bill in Nebraska overcomes filibuster, clears first round of debate

By Martha Stoddard

May 8, 2019, Omaha World-Herald

LINCOLN — Nebraska lawmakers overcame a filibuster Tuesday to advance a bill that aims to help women who change their minds halfway through a medication abortion.

Legislative Bill 209 cleared first-round consideration on a 36-9 vote, after lawmakers voted 37-5 for a filibuster-ending cloture motion.

The measure, introduced by State Sen. Joni Albrecht of Thurston, is this year’s top priority for anti-abortion groups. Similar measures have been passed in at least eight other states.

Supporters argued that the bill could save lives and offer hope to women who don’t want to go through with a medication abortion.

Albrecht cited evidence showing it may be possible to continue a pregnancy if a woman gets high doses of progesterone within 72 hours of taking mifepristone, the first abortion drug, and if she has not taken misoprostol, the second drug. Advocates tout the treatment as an abortion reversal.

Opponents argued that the bill offers false hope to women and represents government interference with the doctor-patient relationship.

They said the evidence comes from cases reported by a California doctor in 2018, not from rigorous scientific studies, and questioned whether the treatment actually makes a difference. An estimated 25% to 50% of women who do not take the second abortion pill remain pregnant.

“Patients who want to continue their pregnancy should not be guinea pigs, and the Nebraska Legislature should not sanction that,” said Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha.

As advanced, LB 209 would require that women be told that mifepristone may not end a pregnancy and that it may not be too late to continue their pregnancy. The bill refers women to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services website for help finding treatment.

Medication abortions can be done during the first 10 weeks of a pregnancy. Typically, women take the first medication in a clinic and are directed to take the second one at home, anywhere from 6 to 48 hours later.

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