Intrusive Nebraska Law Deemed Unconstitutional

Jodi Jacobson

A U.S. District Court has issued a final ruling declaring Nebraska’s recently enacted and misleadingly named "Women's Health Protection Act" unconstitutional.

A U.S. District Court has issued a final ruling declaring Nebraska’s recently enacted and misleadingly named “Women’s Health Protection Act” unconstitutional. The law was challenged by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, with support from Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as co-counsels in the case.

In July, U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp issued a preliminary injunction against the law noting in her ruling that:

“No such legislative concern for the health of women, or of men, has given rise to any remotely similar informed-consent statutes applicable to other medical procedure.”

She also stated that complying with the law’s requirements “would be impossible or nearly impossible,” as many advocates and analysts had earlier claimed, and would place

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“physicians who perform abortions in immediate jeopardy of crippling civil litigation, thereby placing women in immediate jeopardy of losing access to physicians who are willing to perform abortions.”

The Act, which passed the Nebraska legislature in April 2010, would have required physicians who may perform an abortion to discuss the entire body of research literature about possible health risks related to abortion with their patients who are seeking abortions, even though much of this information may be outdated, false or misleading.

For instance, it would have required a physician to discuss flawed studies that purport to find a link between abortion and breast cancer, even though the leading medical organizations — such as the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists — have all flatly rejected any association between abortion and breast cancer.

Women’s health and rights advocates applauded the ruling.

“Our patients rely upon our medical staff to provide honest, medically accurate, unbiased information,” said Jill June, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.

“This settlement allows women in Nebraska to continue to make informed decisions about their health care, without the intimidation tactics based in the Act. Simply put, this is a triumph for fairness in standards of care, a triumph for medical providers, and a triumph for women seeking medical services.” 

“This is a victory for women and women’s health in Nebraska,” said Roger Evans, PPFA’s Senior Director for Public Policy Litigation and Law.

“The statute imposed requirements that were both irrational and impossible, and the only way to comply would have been to cease providing abortions, which is unacceptable. We are gratified that the Nebraska attorney general has agreed to resolve the litigation without further expense to the people of Nebraska.”

“We are very pleased with this outcome. This statute was about political interference in a woman’s private health care decisions,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney at the ACLU and co-counsel in the case.

“The government should stay out of these difficult, private decisions on when or whether to have children and let physicians decide what information is best for a patient’s individual situation,” said Kolbi-Molinas.

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