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Nebraska legislature approves bill tightening abortion restrictions

[JURIST] The Nebraska Legislature [official website] voted 40-9 Monday to approve a bill requiring a heightened level of informed consent and physician assessment of women seeking abortions [JURIST news archive]. The bill [LB 594 text, PDF] would require health care professionals to determine if the woman seeking the abortion had been pressured into the procedure and would also require them to assess the woman for additional risk factors that could lead to mental or physical complications. Physicians would be responsible for assessing any risk factor mentioned in any research article appearing in peer-reviewed journals one year prior to the procedure, and failure to adequately assess a patient would expose the physician to civil charges. According to the bill, factors to be assessed include "physical, psychological, emotional, demographic, or situational" factors. Critics of the bill claim it is too vague [AP report] and that it would be difficult for physicians to know all the risk factors for which they are responsible. Proponents of the bill state that the type of patient assessment required by the bill for abortions is in line with the assessments required for other medical procedures. Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman [official website] is expected to sign the bill into law Tuesday. Also Tuesday, the Nebraska legislature is expected to vote on a second bill [LB 1103 text, PDF] that would ban abortions after the twentieth week and would narrow the circumstances under which exceptions to the law would be allowed.

If the Nebraska bills become law, they would join recent anti-abortion laws in Oklahoma [JURIST report], which advocacy groups have criticized [JURIST comment] and promised to challenge in court. The possibility of the Supreme Court hearing a case challenging these laws could have an impact on the confirmation hearings of President Obama's nominee to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens [JURIST report].

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