Unborn babies with disabilities would be discriminated against by legislation proposed in Nebraska, opponents say.  

The bill, LB 1109, targets unborn babies with certain handicaps by allowing abortion for up to 22 weeks of gestation. If the bill were passed and signed into law, babies diagnosed with often-fatal fetal anomalies, such as Trisomy 13 or 18, would have less protection from abortion. Trisomy 13 and Trisomy 18 are genetic disorders in which an extra chromosome 13 or 18 causes severe developmental delays.  

Nebraska law currently restricts abortion after 12 weeks of gestation, but Legislative Bill 1109, proposed by state Sen. Merv Riepe, a Republican, would “provide for an exception for an abortion in the case of a fatal fetal anomaly.”  

Riepe described LB 1109 as a “cleanup bill” that makes the 12-week ban “more reasonable and respectable,” the Nebraska Examiner reported. He assisted in a legislative compromise last year that led to Nebraska’s 12-week abortion ban. 

Melanie Israel, a visiting fellow with the DeVos Center for Life, Religion, and Family at The Heritage Foundation, said, “Every child, including those who are tragically not likely to live long after birth, should be treated with dignity and compassion. Perinatal hospice and palliative care are life-affirming alternatives to a painful abortion procedure.” (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.) 

Nebraska got it right in 2017 when it enacted a law requiring that pregnant women receive information about perinatal hospice. Policymakers should strengthen and expand life-affirming support for parents and unborn babies facing a devastating diagnosis, not subject unborn babies to gruesome abortions,” Israel added. 

Adam Schwend, Western regional director for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, said, “The sad truth is that many babies who have a diagnosis of Trisomy 18 or another condition don’t die from their condition, but from abortion. Up to 60% of Trisomy 18 babies are aborted in the U.S.”  

“The survival rate of this condition is much, much higher when babies receive adequate medical care–up to 81.5% until discharge, according to one study,” Schwend added. 

The New York Times published an article in 2022, “These Prenatal Tests Are Usually Wrong.” The article noted, “Some of the tests look for missing snippets of chromosomes. For every 15 times they correctly find a problem, they are wrong 85 times.” 

Christina Bennett, a pro-life activist with the pro-life group Live Action, in a phone interview said, “I’ve worked with women for 20 years in the pro-life movement, and I can tell you … there are many stories where women are led to believe that their child may die, when they didn’t.” 

“Regardless, you don’t kill a child because of the threat of their death. That child deserves dignity,” she added.  

Nebraska Right to Life Executive Director Sandy Danek agreed. “Discrimination of those with disabilities has no place in Nebraska,” she said. “Whether born or not yet born, we should celebrate people with different abilities and fiercely guard against any attempt to strip away their right to live and ability to receive proper medical care.” 

The Washington-based nonprofit group is urging Nebraska state senators to “vote against this ableist legislation to protect the most vulnerable among us.”

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