A Nebraska bill would require reproductive health clinics to post signs ostensibly intended to prevent women from being forced into terminating a pregnancy. Opponents of the bill say the signs represent a subtle attempt to dissuade women from seeking abortion services.
LB 1032, introduced by Sen. Bill Kintner (R-Papillion), would require clinics that provide abortion services to “conspicuously post a sign” that says it is “against the law for anyone to force you to have an abortion.” The bill designates the size of the print to be used on the sign, and states that it must be “clearly visible to patients.”
If violated, the proposed law would carry a fine of $10,000 for every day that the required sign is not posted at the clinic during any portion of business hours.
State law already prohibits coercing a woman into terminating a pregnancy.
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Nebraska’s judiciary committee held a hearing on the legislation on February 27, during which Kintner cited women being forced to have abortions as justification for the proposed law; he told the committee that women have been threatened with violence, withdrawal of financial support, and loss of housing, the Lincoln Journal-Star reports. “We know of cases across the country of women being forced by boyfriends, spouses, parents, and others to have an abortion,” Kintner said.
In an interview with a local NBC affiliate, Kintner compared the sign requirement to signs placed in bars warning against fetal alcohol syndrome for pregnant women. Current Nebraska law requires all establishments that serve or sell alcohol to post a sign that says “drinking alcoholic beverages during pregnancy can cause birth defects.” The Nebraska Liquor Control Commission is required to provide the signs to businesses.
The bill appears to be
based on Americans United for Life (AUL) model legislation. AUL’s model omnibus bill Coercive Abuse Against Mothers Prevention Act includes a section on sign postage requirements, which has identical sentences and phrases to LB 1032.
The Nebraska Family Alliance, an affiliate of Focus on the Family, supports the bill. During a legislative update video, Nebraska Family Alliance Policy Director Dave Bydalek said, “Studies have shown that about 64 percent of women who say they’ve had an abortion felt that they’d been pressured by family members or boyfriend or spouse.”
is likely referring to a 2004 report by the anti-choice Elliot Institute, which claimed that among U.S. women who reported having an abortion, “64 percent ‘felt pressured by others’ to have the abortion.”
According to a report from the Guttmacher Institute, the number of instances in which a woman may have been coerced into terminating a pregnancy is much fewer. One study found that the proportion of women citing influence from partners or parents as their most important reason for terminating their pregnancy was less than 1 percent.
Susan Allen, director of marketing and communications at Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, told Rewire that LB 1032 is unnecessary legislation because information about coercion is already provided for all patients considering abortion in Nebraska. “Information should never be provided with the sole purpose of coercing, shaming, or pressuring a woman into making a decision that is not right for her,” said Allen.
Allen says that every patient at Planned Parenthood considering abortion undergoes counseling to ensure she is not subjected to duress or coercion of any kind. “Through a decision assessment tool that the patient completes, the patient is asked how her decision was made and what support system she has,” said Allen. “Our staff then reviews this assessment with the patient and if there is any indication that coercion may be taking place, our staff will provide the patient the additional resources she needs.”
The bill awaits a vote by the committee, after which it can be voted on by the full senate. Because Nebraska has a unicameral legislature, bills are only voted on by the senate before moving to the governor for signature or veto.