[JURIST] The Nebraska Legislature [official website] voted 44-5 on Tuesday to approve the Abortion Pain Prevention Act [LB1103 materials; press release] prohibiting an abortion [JURIST news archive] at or past 20 weeks. The law is based on medical evidence that allegedly indicates a fetus can feel pain following that point and goes beyond the previous state law that prohibited abortions at approximately 24 weeks based on the fetus's ability to live outside the womb. The legislation allows a patient or the father of a fetus to sue a doctor for actual damages when the act is violated. Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman [official website] signed [press release] the legislation the same day along with another bill [LB 594 materials; JURIST report] approved Monday that would require health care professionals to determine if a 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.
The Abortion Pain Prevention Act makes Nebraska the first state to prohibit [ABC report] an abortion based on the idea that a fetus can feel pain as early as 20 weeks. The Nebraska laws join recent anti-abortion laws [JURIST report] passed in Oklahoma, which prohibit abortions performed because of the gender of the fetus, protect medical employees who refuse to participate in procedures such as abortion based on religious beliefs, and regulate the use of RU-486, or mifepristone, a chemical used in abortion procedures. Advocacy groups have criticized [JURIST comment] the Oklahoma laws and promised to challenge them in court.