Abortion bill debated; services added to likely tax package

Abortion bill debated; services added to likely property tax package
Sen. Joni Albrecht, foreground, watches as senators vote on an amendment to her bill (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)
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April 29, 2019 - 6:18pm

Women about to start a medical abortion would have to be told they could still have a viable pregnancy, under a bill debated today/Monday in the Legislature. And the Revenue Committee moved toward taxing more services, and possibly reducing its proposed sales tax increase, as part of its property tax relief proposal.

The abortion debate involved a proposal by Sen. Joni Albrecht. Albrecht wants to add to the information given to women before they begin a so-called medical abortion, which involves taking two drugs: mifepristone, which inhibits the uptake of progesterone, necessary to maintain pregnancy, and then a day later, misoprostol, to empty the uterus.

Some practitioners say that if a woman changes her mind, taking progesterone after the first drug increases the chances of a viable pregnancy. Albrecht said her bill benefits women. “It gives women hope, control over their own medical treatement, and another opportunity to choose life. It gives the woman the opportunity to spare herself the pain and regret of a no-longer-wanted abortion, as well as the pain and regret of losing a wanted child,” she said.

Sen. Megan Hunt opposed the bill. Hunt said 98 to 99 percent of women are certain of their decision if they decide to have an abortion. And she said the results of progesterone therapy have not been scientifically proven. ”Those one to two percent of women who change their minds, who have regrets -- I care about them. And I want to make sure they aren’t  lied to. We should show compassion for those women,  and we should make sure they aren’t lied to or given false hope for a treatment that just has not been shown to work,” she said.

Originally, the bill would have required abortion providers to tell patients that it may be possible to reverse a medication abortion and that information on how to do so would be available on the Department of Health and Human Services website. A Judiciary Committee amendment watered that down to say a viable pregnancy may still be possible after taking the first drug, and information on medical assistance is available from the website. Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Steve Lathrop said that solves the problem of potentially requiring doctors to provide inaccurate information. “The amendment is actually factual. Where the train may jump the tracks is if HHS puts something on the website that’s not scientifically accurate, but that we don’t necessarily have control over,” he said said.


Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks opposed having the government tell doctors what to tell their patients, noting that there are no similar requirements for what to tell men seeking vasectomies. “This is aggravating to me. I am aggravated about the fact that ‘We have to protect the women.’ Thank you so much, men, for ‘protecting the women’ on an issue that isn’t your business when that woman walks into that medical doctor’s office,” she said.

Senators reached the three-hour time limit for debate before reaching a vote on the bill, but Albrecht says she’s confident she has enough support to get the bill scheduled for further debate.

On taxes, the Legislature’s Revenue Committee approved adding a to a list of services that would be subject to the sales tax, in an effort to reduce property taxes. Among the services the committee added are home maintenance, painting and repair, motor vehicle maintenance and repair, and dry cleaning. The committee chair, Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, said she hope taxing additional services will enable the committee to cut a proposed increase in the sales tax rate from ¾ to ½ a cent. She said the ¾ cent increase would put Nebraska’s rate higher than any neighboring state except Kansas.

The committee has taken no final vote on a bill to recommend to the full Legislature.  







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