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April 14th, 2010
12:00 PM ET

Nebraska law prevents abortions after 20 weeks

(CNN) - It's a new state law that could have an impact nationwide. Nebraska lawmakers have passed legislation to ban abortions after 20 weeks, on the belief that the fetus feels pain by that time.

Patricia Murphy, Capitol Hill bureau chief of PoliticsDaily.com, and CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin joined us on Wednesday's American Morning to discuss the law.


Filed under: Controversy
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. good ol boy

    Is there anything law makers can do about down right ignorance, what happened to common sense?

    April 22, 2010 at 8:15 am |
  2. AnotherAmy

    As many have commented, this is not an easy issue. Each abortion almost always falls in some grey area. Whether one is a parent or not, I think we can all agree that raising a child is not somethinhg to be undertaken lightly.

    Having said that, when we have the technology to raise a zygot or fetus OUTSIDE THE WOMB, OUTSIDE THE WOMAN, then and only then will I (maybe) agree that abortion is not a solution for an unwanted pregnancy. And who wants to pay their tax dollars toward an unwanted fetus farm?!? Not me!

    I am SICK of hearing that a clump of cells INSIDE A PERSON has the same rights as any other person.

    It takes way more than human DNA to make a fully functioning person.

    April 21, 2010 at 2:02 pm |
  3. lucy

    I think it is interesting to note that my "Crhistian" sister, and staunch anti-abortionist, also complains loudly about the cost to society of caring for the damaged babies born to women who don't want them. Does she not understand that the mother and the live baby also feel pain?

    April 21, 2010 at 8:00 am |
  4. Missy

    Just because an idea is pushed by a religious group doesn’t mean it’s automatically wrong. The mostly Christian abolitionists had the same problem with their critics and their plight to abolish slavery. With their help and a little government intervention most people eventually came to believe that the slaves were indeed fully human, their rights were worth protecting and there really was no room for compromise. Some things, like murder and slavery, are just wrong, despite religious beliefs. If we can say, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a “fetus” is not fully human then we have no problem. If we think a “fetus” is a baby then there’s a major ethical problem. As a former pro-choicer, I can say that after looking at a sonogram of my own 9-week-old “fetus” with little arms and legs kicking, it looked like a baby to me.

    April 21, 2010 at 12:33 am |
  5. Will

    Wow, Mary calm down. First off, you can't simply claim an entire group of people are a bunch of hypocrites based on your own perceptions of reality-something that you accuse us of doing. For record, I have volunteered as a big brother in a Detroit inner-city school and am a member of a student group that visits children's hospitals to hand out hats and talk with sick kids. Your case of having an abortion is extremely rare. Of the women that have abortions, most do so out of convenience and some because they were raped. Your case (and you have explained why Joeseph's life would be shortened-genetic defect? Develop difficulty?) is very unusual. Pro-lifers stand for protecting the lives of unborn humans, who have rights just like the rest of us. Your argument for "compassion" can also be used to kill off anyone in constant pain and suffering. Should we stop prescribing painkillers and just knock off anyone who was using them?

    April 20, 2010 at 8:00 pm |
  6. Kate Darling

    As a female of color, lesbian, feminist and atheist I think that it is pretty disgusting that so many people would support killing their daughters based on gender or any reason for that matter. I am not into religious stupidity but when the cells unite and begin to grow life is present. If people could do tests to determine the sexual orientation of their unborn child how many would abort their homosexual child? The violent male system does not respect motherhood or the planet Earth, which is why we continue destroying the environment and polluting our wombs with dangerous chemicals. In a just society every child would be a wanted child. Abortion serves the interests of men who do not want to take responsiblity over their actions and want to exploit women.

    April 20, 2010 at 6:45 pm |
  7. Carrie

    When all is said and done... is it murder or not? Is it a separate life or not? I think that's where everything gets muddled... justification for our actions... no matter right or wrong.

    April 20, 2010 at 6:00 pm |
  8. Becki

    As usual, reasonable dialogue is difficult on this issue. No matter what the conditions surrounding the choice, whether it's illegal or not, there is always a "choice" when it comes to abortion. But that choice is not as simple a choice as either side makes it out to be. I wonder if there is any place where people on each "side" could talk to each other as people rather than ideologues, without shouting, really hear the issues and find what we agree on....I know pro life people who take in disadvantaged children, work with victims of rape and incest, foster and/or adopt "unwanted" children. I also know pro choice people who do the same. Surprisingly, we might have similar goals...

    April 20, 2010 at 4:53 pm |
  9. Catherine Prince Castillo

    The vast majority of women would, if they choose to terminate a pregnancy,terminate it at between 6 and 10 weeks and so I believe that the 20 week rule would either apply to woman who having had an amneocentsis receive the devastating news that they are carrying a fetus with birth deffects or a woman who to be quite frank could not get it together before and are they the kind of women who are fit to be parents?
    I am sick and tired of these pro lifers...they have zero interest in a fetus once its born and it has ceased to be a political issue for them.....
    They offer no solution for the thousands of unwanted children in this country and yet they want to tell women what they can do with their bodies...
    I have had abortions and let me tell you that in my case it was an overwhelming relief to have them....
    I believe abortion should be done early on in a pregnancy in a safe ,legal and private environment but I also accept that there is a need for late term abortions.
    Witness when Dr George Tiller was murdered...the stories of the women who he helped were heart breaking.These werent women who decided they didnt want a baby after carrying it for 6 months!
    He was a last resort to terminate a fetus with horrendous birth defects who could not sustain life....
    Keep abortion sae,legal and prviate and stop allowing politicians to use it as a political football....

    April 20, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
  10. Susan Lovett

    I personally have never had to make this decision; however I do know several females that have. Having been a hairstylist for 35 years (since age 16), I can honestly say, it's been more than a few. In some cases the women were able to move on. In many cases, with the ones I am aware of, there were tremendous feelings of having made the wrong decision continuing years afterward. Some of these women had abortions later/much later than the time specified here.
    Some as a result of their age and/or ignorance about what stage of development the fetus was, were particularly bothered by their decision.
    I am the mother of a beautiful 8 year old that I was lucky enough to adopt. I was pregnant in my mid twenties, lost the baby and could have no other pregancies afterward. That information was devastating
    to me. I cared for this child as a foster parent, his mother unable to take care of him from the start. She knew her situation prior to his birth and every day I thank those responsible for helping her make a decision to go through with the birth.
    Clearly, a 10 year old is too young to raise a baby, and in some cases, particularly without prenatal care, it could be harmful. My queston at this time would be is a congressman(woman) better able able to judge the health of the two bodies immediately involved or the doctors who have taken the responsility for making decisons on the behalf of both children? Apparently the mother of this 10 year old is also aware of the situation and the decisions, so why does the rest of the world need to be brought into this decision. Would there be all this stir if the mother had simply taken her someplace and had the abortion? I feel like then we would be hearing much more about the rights of those involved to make their own decision. It seems the doctors are on top of this. The outcome could be a blessing for someone else, and has already drawn much needed attention to the fact that this young girl was been so horrorendously abused by her stepfather.

    April 20, 2010 at 2:50 pm |
  11. Jennifer

    If the cutoff is not 20 weeks, then when? Should a woman in labor be able to demand an abortion at the hospital rather than a delivery? How about 35 weeks? Maybe 30?

    Although rare, infants have been known to survive slightly past 20 weeks gestation. If there were a medical concern for the mother, the woman could deliver the baby early. A baby when delivered does not have to be taken home by the biological parents. Even for babies with disabilities, the truth is that we do not, in our country, euthanize humans. Maybe we should in certain cases of pain and suffering, but we don't. Aborting a viable fetus with an abnormality is really euthanasia in a currently legal form.

    I agree with the intent of the Nebraska law. There is no justifiable reason to kill a fetus that could live outside the womb.

    April 20, 2010 at 2:49 pm |
  12. puzzled

    Sandra, you are so right. It is easier to understand the life forming inside you if you have actually been pregnant!

    April 20, 2010 at 2:38 pm |
  13. puzzled

    Is there any doubt that a fetus (during first 20 weeks of pregnancy) almost always will eventually become a BABY (human being) assuming no one interrupts the process? i don't get the arguement that a fetus is not a life.

    April 20, 2010 at 2:36 pm |
  14. Brenda

    Every law has a cap on it. Speedinglaws say how fast you can drive. So, why not a law that states how far pregnant you are and can still have an abortion.

    And don't get started on the 10 year old in Mexico. All of my sympathy is with her. Children and other rape victims like her are in a separate catagory. She wasn't even given the information that she could have an abortion. That is just awful.

    I would not have an abortion. But the US law allows women the right to do so. I would not take that right from them although I do believe in most instances it is wrong.

    And the person who said just think of all of the people who may have done wonderful things if they hadn't been aborted. On the other hand, Hitler's mother wanted an abortion and the doctor wouldn't do one. Think of all of the misery that would have been avoided if the doctor had given her an abortion.

    We should not call people names because we do NOT agree with their stand on abortion. We just need to accept that not everyone had the same opinion.

    My cousin's unmarried sister was pregnant. The man disappeared. He offered to take the baby and raise it as his own. She declined the offer and raised the baby herself. There are people out there who are willing to help when help is needed.

    April 20, 2010 at 2:32 pm |
  15. Mary

    I had an abortion at 19 1/2 weeks. That was when the results of the prenatal testing on the child my husband and I had conceived out of love came through. Joseph had a name, a bedroom with toys and books and clothes and stuffed animals set up and waiting for him. Joseph was planned and wanted and loved. Joseph's tests results showed that his life would be a shortened one of pain and suffering, that medical intervention would be a daily ritual. If any of you pro existence supporters had ever been in the position to decide the level of pain that you would find tolerable for your child to endure EVERYDAY, you might realize that your so called religious beliefs don't give you the right to sentence another human being to a life of suffering. It seems you would show more compassion to a dog than you would a child. It has been a year and a half, and I think of Joseph everyday. All of you who stand on your soapboxes spouting off about birth control and responsibility need to step out into the real world. You would rather my son live a torturous life? What kind of compassion is that? How many of you adopt unwanted children, support medical research, volunteer with developmentally disabled, work with victims of rape/incest, take in foster children, are a big brother/sister to disadvantaged children in your community...? I am going to venture a guess-not too many. Your hypocrisy is disgusting.

    April 20, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
  16. floda

    consider who these millions of unborn persons could have been.
    perhaps, one of them could have stopped 9-11, or perhaps would have worked at nasa when the challenger blew up. Get the Point.
    History could be totally different if persons who were meant to be born, were allowed to be born

    April 20, 2010 at 12:47 pm |
  17. Sandra

    I'm 21 weeks pregnant...and the thought of having an abortion this late in the game...MY GOODNESS, you've got to be freakin kidding me!

    Sure, there are plenty here that can argue all this "it's a woman's right"/scientific mumbo jumbo. Yeah. I get it. You got an A+ in biology. However, you can't argue with this child/fetus/future son moving around inside of me as I type these letters. For me to be 5 months in and think, "You know what little guy, it's game over for you IT'S A WOMAN'S RIGHT!". That's just crazy talk.

    April 20, 2010 at 12:27 pm |
  18. Nat Vmerican

    Mother Earth , in her whole existance, has not aborted one life.As we celebrate Earth Day must we mourn the missing beat of lifes full potential? Arise humanity,and bravely lift our new offerings!

    April 20, 2010 at 12:20 pm |
  19. inchy

    Put simply, the erosion of women's rights is taking place before our eyes. This is backwards and sick, and rooted in ignorant religious beliefs. The sooner humanity moves toward reality and fact-based lives when it comes to life and death and health, the better off we'll be. Making decisions based in myth, fairy tale, and the fantasy-based thought process that religions follow is dangerous for everyone.

    April 20, 2010 at 10:48 am |
  20. Geezer

    1) In this country, we take pride in the separation of church and state. Those who have a religious objection to abortion, should enforce it within their own religion–your religion has no right to impose it's values on another person's religion.

    2) If the legal objection is pain, then that could be addressed by requiring anesthesia for the fetus, not outlawing abortion entirely.

    3) Black & white thinking is understood within the mental health profession to lead to poor decision making, and is highly correlated with depression and stress. I suggest that those who see the world so categorically, should consider whether they are taking adequate care of themselves, before attempting to muddle in other people's affairs.

    4) For those who profess to be protecting the child–why make a distinction for rape–does conception by rape result in a less worthy fetus?

    5) The decision of whether to have an abortion is far more nuanced than whether the fetus is believed to be 20 weeks old or not...the world already has too many children who are not getting the care they need...we do not need to add yet more children who, by virtue of being unintended and unwanted, have been exposed in vitro to alchohol, drugs, deficiency of critical nutrients, and will therefore find themselves unable to succeed in an increasingly competitive world. If two young people with impulse control issues conceive a child, the odds are that they child also have impulse control issues. We do not need to disrupt the life prospects of a bright young woman studying to be a scientist or doctor–we need her future contributions to solve the mess of problems we are dumping on our kids.

    We do not need to force two young people into a marriage (and probably a subsequent divorce) who are really not in love with each other–studies have found that the economic prospects for a young single mother and her child are grim.

    6) If the Moral Minority wants to walk their talk, I suggest each congregation take on the heavy lifting of funding the health care and college costs of a handful of needy kids. Surely a 17 year old black kid who wants to go to college, is no less deserving of support than a white fetus, right?

    Stop waving your guns around, and reach into your wallets, folks, if you want to protect the children.

    April 20, 2010 at 8:57 am |
  21. Amy

    Isn't Nebraska the state that allowed parents to abandon 17 year olds? I know they fixed that small loophole in a well meaning law, but I'm thinking that this is another well meaning but badly thought out law.

    And really, what does Christianity have to do with anything. Not everyone is Christian, most certainly not me, so why do the rest of us have to deal with a doctrine that isn't our own? It's really offensive.

    April 20, 2010 at 7:20 am |
  22. Confused

    I am a little confused as to why this is such a terrible thing. I had an abortion several years ago and I'll tell you that it was one of the most difficiult decisions I have ever made but absolutely the right choice for me at the time. However, my abortion was at 6 weeks. When you are 20 weeks pregnant, you have been pregnant for HALF of your pregnancyand have formed a bond with you fetus; 4 1/2 months have passed and most likely you have known you were pregnant for at least 3 of those months. I think the time to choose should be limited and I don't see the problem with 20 weeks (unless health problems are the cause) being the cutoff – if the baby can feel it seems like a good reason to me. A decision to abort a baby is not an easy one, but there is definitely a delicate balance and there must be some sort of cutoff.

    April 20, 2010 at 7:05 am |
  23. liz

    America! The champions of every kind of and ridiculous right except the rights of the defenceless unborn child! We just don't get you!

    April 20, 2010 at 5:01 am |
  24. stan t

    Evelyn > actually, nebraska DOES have laws that dictate taking care of unwanted children. just as EVERY other state in the nation does. if the mother does not wish to care for a child she has a certain amount of time after it's birth to turn the infant over to authorities in a number of locations (ranging from police stations, hospitals, even local libraries in some jurisdictions) and simply walk away without any additional responsibility. so whats your next strawman argument? oh your bit about 'irresponsible males' did you know that in some states – say florida since it's pretty middle of the road – the MINIMUM child support you can pay is 233$ a month – if you work for minimum wage. if you are 400$ delinquent on your support the state starts to take collection action begining with suspending your drivers liscence. at 2,000$ delinquent the matter becomes criminal and you can be jailed for it.

    so we have it that not only are women NOT required to be responsible for a child even without abortion, but men can only shirk their duties as a father by becoming a criminal and possibly fugitive from the law.

    April 20, 2010 at 4:51 am |
  25. Sanjana

    Justin, it's very easy for you to say, you're a guy.

    "The woman made her choice about the pregnancy when she decided to have sex." It takes two to clap you know. So the fact that biologically at least if not socially as well, the mother is the only one left taking care of the child is really what makes no sense.

    It's less about being 'trapped' by pregnancy, it's more that people recognize when they are and are not able to support a child. Would you prefer that the child be born and then mistreated? Foster care systems, in the privileged countries that they do exist, can be severely damaging to the child's social and psychological growth. And where they don't, orphanages? Is that a better alternative? Aren't there enough parent-less children in the world already?

    And when you decry abortion altogether, let me bring to your notice a story on this very site of a 10-year-old in Mexico, raped by her stepfather and now 17 and a half weeks pregnant. A TEN year old. Rape victims don't "choose" to have sex and get pregnant, it is lecherous bestial men who force themselves on the women, usually just as a show of power.

    How would you explain that away?

    April 20, 2010 at 4:44 am |
  26. Jerry

    It's not a person until it can survive outside of the womb without artificial means.

    BTW, don't any of you 'thumpers actually know your own Christian mythology? A baby is not imbued by your God with a soul UNTIL it is born. Before birth = no soul, no soul = not a person.

    April 20, 2010 at 3:27 am |
  27. Larry Abramson

    Good for Nebraska. In this day and age of morning after pills, and quick early abortions, aborting a fetus at more than 20 weeks is tantamount to murder. As for pain, it is clear that a fetus of that age with an almost fully developed nervous system dies in the most horrible way as a result of a late term abortion.
    As any right, the right to have an abortion must have reasonable limits. This is the equivalent of shouting fire in a crowded theater and claiming it's an expression of free speech.
    My rights end where yours begin!

    April 20, 2010 at 1:59 am |
  28. Jan

    I went to help escort women up in Omaha, NE one day. I was told the protesters would be the loudest when a mother would come in with a young child at her side. I watched one young mother come in with a small child at her side. I waited for the noise, but you could have heard a pin drop from the protesters. I asked why they were so quiet. I was told it was because the mother was black and they only called out to the white mothers. I'm thankful that God doesn't care what color I am and that we can all trace our ancestory back to His likeness and His image. All of our self righteousness is like filthy rags. Man looks on the outside but God looks in on the heart. We are offered Christ's perfect life and His robe in exchange for ours. We are so loved. God promises to wipe away all of our tears someday.We make choices according to the facts we know to be true at the time. My heart aches for the precious women that are made to feel guilty in hindsight. Abortion is not an easy decision but is a last resort when there are no other options. I hate to see something legal being done illegally as it's impossible to have it done safely because of all of the requirements. May God show you more mercy than has been shown to the NE women.

    April 20, 2010 at 1:47 am |
  29. k3rm1t

    So by this same idea will it now be illegal to kill unwanted animals in animal shelters? Will Nebraska set up state run orphanages?

    As far as feeling pain goes, they have proven that plants react and seemingly feel pain when part of the plant is cut away. Do we need to ban killing plants?

    Its a slippery slope. Though I agree that people should understand there can be consequences for their actions. I don't believe we should outlaw abortion all together but I don't have a mind limiting it say the first 20 weeks. Most of the women I have met over the course of my lifetime seem to understand their bodies enough to know if they are pregnant by 10-12 weeks. I would like to think that 8-10 weeks is enough to make a decision.

    Someone made a good point about men and fertility. If a woman chooses to have a baby she can legally get child support from the father and should do so. Men need to remember there are consequences for them to if they choose to have sex.

    April 20, 2010 at 1:35 am |
  30. Jennifer

    Normally I wouldn't feel the need to comment. But I just wanna point out a few things. My personal beliefs are not based on religion – I am PERSONALLY Pro-Life (meaning I couldn’t abort a baby) but SOCIALLY Pro-Choice (I don't agree with taking the choice away from someone else). Or it could be looked at as I'm Pro-Choice period, and have chosen not to have abortions.

    At any rate, I am 100% appalled by late term abortions. For the very reason they are making the cut off 20 weeks: that baby FEELS it. Also, if the baby is viable, then it IS murder to abort. Perform a c-section, or induce, whichever, and get the baby out, but don't carve out its brains or burn it with chemicals or dismember it when there's a POSSIBILITY it could live.

    The other lightening rod for me is rape. Statements like "The woman made her choice about the pregnancy when she decided to have sex." fills me with rage. Do you think that 10 year old Mexican girl who was raped by her stepfather was thinking "Gee, I wanna have sex, and would be perfectly fine getting pregnant."?? Rape victims do not CHOOSE to have sex, and they do not CHOOSE to get pregnant.

    I am in agreement that ANYONE who has CONSENSUAL sex should 100% do so fully prepared for a pregnancy to result. To have CONSENSUAL sex is to attempt to make a baby, no matter the contraception in place. Now, just as would be the choice of a woman to HAVE sex, it should also be her choice whether to bring a pregnancy to fruition. If she doesn't want to keep a pregnancy, I'm okay with there being guidelines in place that SPECIFY the time by which the optional abortion is to take place.

    Additionally, in cases where a pregnancy is life threatening to the mother, if the pregnancy is not to the viability cutoff, I'm sorry, but you gotta be able to abort. Or deliver if it’s viable.

    The problem with anti-abortionists is that they don't see the grey area. They only lead with their misogynist belief systems and to hell with everyone (including babies filling up the orphanages) else.

    April 20, 2010 at 12:18 am |
  31. Bree

    @ Justin:

    There are some serious flaws with your argument.

    First, 20 week old fetus is not a person. If it cannot live on its own, you cannot call it a person. It is simply a fetus.

    Second, to pick a timeline for abortion does make scientific sense. It is based off when, scientifically, a fetus is able to survive outside the womb. Your claims are completely false and not based in fact at all.

    Don't use science to support your anti-abortion argument. Science does not support you in any way. Don't hide your religiously-influenced beliefs behind the false mask of science. I can guarantee almost any scientist would be appalled.

    Before you make any more comments with such a blatant misuse of science, do some research. Otherwise, you simply make yourself look uninformed and discredit your argument beyond the many flaws it innately possesses.

    April 19, 2010 at 11:00 pm |
  32. Justin

    This law isn't about taking a choice away from a woman. It is about identifying under law that an unborn baby is a person with rights, and not just some extension of a woman that they are free to cut out. The woman made her choice about the pregnancy when she decided to have sex. The decision to keep or not keep a child is one that should be about adoption not abortion. The way the law works now, is to just pick a point on the line, (x) number of weeks, and after that point, an abortion is murder, and before it is meaningless.. scientifically and legally that makes no sense. A seed is considered a plant when it germinates(**begins** to grow), why this was so easily agreed upon for plants but not for humans? My guess is that men and women both don't want to feel "trapped" by something like pregnancy. It is a terrible example of how self centered our society has become. I wish democrats saw this as protecting rights of people who cannot speak for themselves like they do for so many other groups. Hopefully science will show the truth in court this time around.

    April 15, 2010 at 10:39 pm |
  33. Mitchell

    CNN you are the champion of everything liberal,, everything socolist. Keep up the good work.

    April 15, 2010 at 8:51 am |
  34. ronvan

    BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING & IN CONTROL! Women have the "right" to make their own decisions, EXCEPT when others say they don't! OUR modern day society is screwed-up, with all these so called "do gooder" groups, FORCING, thier way of life & beliefs on all of us. Evelyn you hit the nail on the head with your comment.

    April 15, 2010 at 8:14 am |
  35. Evelyn Barrington

    Very well, Nebraska now prohibits abortions after 20 weeks. Does Nebraska have laws in place to care for maybe thousands of unwanted children?.

    When will our supposedly enlightened society accept that males, who are fertile all of the time are not ever responsible for their fertility and females, who do not know with certainty about their fertility are always the caretakers of the unwanted .?

    I would be convinced of the sincerety of the anti abortionists if i could be convinced that they would open their homes to all the worlds undwanted children. They do not, they just pretend that life is precious .

    Get real, or go to Africa and see what a world of unwanted children looks like.

    E.

    April 14, 2010 at 7:42 pm |
  36. LaToya Taylor

    The mental evaluations should be optional. Mental evaluations should be used only to determine which women are more at risk of having mental issues later in life based on their descision, and results of these evaluations should be solely used help these at risk women get the help of counselors or support groups.

    April 14, 2010 at 4:45 pm |
  37. SJ

    Why would you call it a "belief that the fetus feels pain" when it has been published by the New England Journal of Medicine. I'm sure they don't publish beliefs. They publish facts based on scientific research.

    April 14, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
  38. J. Chenoweth

    I think that screening women for mental health issues is very unconstitutional. First off, numerous studies that are rarely shown on the news show that women who have abortions when it is an unwanted pregnancy do psychologically better than women who have the baby due to guilt or coercion from others. This is PROVEN, and why people refuse to believe that a woman could be satisfied with her choice is beyond me.
    Abortion being legislated is just the church's failure to convince people so they have to force their agenda's through unconstitutional legislation.

    April 14, 2010 at 1:56 pm |