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Nebraska Lawmakers Pass Abortion Ultrasound Bill

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska will soon require those performing abortions to display ultrasound images of fetuses in a way that the women can easily view them.

Lawmakers passed the bill (LB675) Friday afternoon on a 40-5 vote, and Gov. Dave Heineman signed it a short time later. Four senators did not vote.

Supporters of the bill introduced by Sen. Tony Fulton of Lincoln argued it would give women more information to consider before making decisions.

Others criticized the bill, saying it's government forcing itself into a private procedure that should be between a doctor and a patient.

But there was no debate Friday before final approval, as is the Legislature's practice.

The bill also would require the state to compile a list of clinics that offer free ultrasounds to women.

Nebraska will become the 14th state to require that abortion providers offer patients chances to see ultrasound images. The bill will take effect Aug. 29.

Mary Spaulding Balch with the National Right to Life Committee said Nebraska's proposed law is worded more strongly than that of most other states with similar measures. She says Nebraska's law requires the ultrasound image to be displayed instead of just requiring that the woman be asked if she wants to see the image, as the other states do.

"We think it's an important distinction, because we feel that when women are in a crisis -- such as trying to decide whether or not they will have an abortion or not have the abortion -- they're probably just thinking that they don't want to be pregnant, and they're not really asking too many questions," she said.

But Bobbie Kierstead, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Nebraska and Council Bluffs (Iowa), said she doesn't believe the bill will change her organization's longtime practice of offering women the choice of whether to view an ultrasound.

"It should be their choice," Kierstead said.

Planned Parenthood had objected to this measure as an improper intrusion into the practice of medicine.

"This is basically telling doctors what information and what care is best for their patients," Kierstead said.

The Nebraska bill was based on a model proposal the National Right to Life group offered to lawmakers.

Spaulding Balch said some women have said that seeing the ultrasound images influenced them against getting abortions. But there is no hard evidence or statistics, because states don't track how often women request to see the images.