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Report Rates Nebraska Among "Worst States" for Reproductive Freedom

Nebraska was the first state to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. (Dave Fayran/Flickr)
Nebraska was the first state to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. (Dave Fayran/Flickr)
January 18, 2017

LINCOLN, Neb. – The Cornhusker State may be in line with many others on reproductive rights, but new research suggests it is out of step with the views of women.

The 50-state report released Tuesday by NARAL Pro-Choice America rates Nebraska among the 26 states where access to reproductive health care is "severely restricted."

But Joel Foster, the group's national political director, said Nebraska's anti-choice governor and legislature do not reflect the overall views of the public.

"Based on the extensive research that we've done, seven in ten Americans support keeping abortion legal," Foster said. "That's not just a majority, that's a consensus. And that consensus includes people from all parts of the country, and of all political leaning."

Julie Schmit-Albin, executive director of the anti-abortion group Nebraska Right to Life, disagrees. She countered that Nebraska has always been anti-abortion, which is reflected in its laws. It was the first state to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

"If NARAL wants to continue to give us the rating of being a 'very restrictive' state, we're happy to claim that," she said. "Because it only means that more unborn babies' lives will be saved, and perhaps mothers will be spared the hurt and pain of abortion."

The report found Nebraska is among states that subjects abortion providers to restrictions not imposed on other medical professionals, and makes women who seek abortions receive biased counseling. It also found there is no facility that performs abortions in 97 percent of Nebraska counties.

Foster contends the findings highlight the uncertain future for reproductive health care in the U.S., with President-elect Donald Trump's power to appoint Supreme Court justices who overturn Roe v. Wade.

"This is really a very pivotal time in the fight for reproductive freedom in this country," he added. "We have elected an anti-choice president, anti-choice House and Senate, and we're seeing unprecedented headwinds in the states when it comes to restrictions for reproductive freedom."

A report also released Tuesday by the Guttmacher Institute found that in 2014, the U.S. abortion rate dropped to its lowest level since the 1970s, with Nebraska's rate lower than the national average.

Some argue the decrease reflects changed attitudes, or women who want abortions but can't get access. The decrease is widespread and showing up in states with fewer restrictions as well, and many analysts say credit belongs to improved access to family planning.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - NE