Despite the ruling, abortions in Nebraska have been in decline for a decade

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Nearly 2,400 women had abortions in Nebraska last year, according to a new report from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. The number is similar to last year and suggests the number of women seeking abortion treatment has declined despite the pandemic. Nevertheless, the numbers follow a national trend the increase in abortions during the pandemic.

The report gives us a glimpse of who is seeking abortions in Nebraska: mostly women in their early 20s who say birth control or contraceptives either failed or weren’t used during sex.

The new numbers come a week after the US Supreme Court overturned the Roe vs. Wade case, abolishing the constitutional right to abortion. While Nebrascans still have access to abortions, a special session of the Nebraska Legislature could be called to further restrict the procedure.

The report says:

  • The most common age of a patient wanting an abortion in 2022 was 26 years
  • 9% were between 15 and 19 years old
  • 31% of the patients who requested an abortion were between 20 and 24 years old
  • 28% were between 25 and 29 years old

“Many of the people who come to our organization are in a vulnerable and desperate situation over what seems so simple and really should be accessible and is essential health care,” says Chelsea Souder, director of Abortion Resources in Nebraska said.

The organization, known as NEAR, began helping people get abortions in January 2022. Souder said the patients her group usually supports don’t have health insurance and are already parents. The abortion fund founder said the people her group helps are usually grateful for the free help and support, which includes paying for travel and accommodation expenses.

“We appreciate that, but at the same time, we keep telling people, ‘We’re sorry you’re going through this. You don’t have to justify your decisions to us or to the rest of the world,'” Souder said. “We trust that you, as human beings, are making the best decisions for your body, your family and your future.”

The Nebraska Family Alliance, a group opposed to abortion rights, believes mothers can be supported during their pregnancy if future laws restrict access to abortions. Nate Grasz, the Alliance’s political director, hopes more people will consider pregnancy.

“We never tried to just take Roe down,” Grasz said. “The pro-life movement exists primarily to save lives, empower women, and help entire families thrive,” Grasz said.

He hopes for a broader cultural shift that will offer more social support to all parents.

The Nebraska Family Alliance hopes the Nebraska Legislature will pass legislation, either in a special session or in the next legislative session, that would further limit abortion opportunities. Nebraska currently allows abortions up to 20 weeks after conception.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said CNN in May, after Samuel Alito’s draft decision was leaked that he would support a total abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest.

“These are babies too,” Ricketts told CNN.

A chilling effect on women’s health care?

The report states that most abortion procedures were through the use of drugs: 1,709. Two other ways medical personnel performed abortions were: dilation and extraction (D&X) and suctioning, procedures that often occur after miscarriage or in late-term abortions.

Andi Curry Grubb, executive director of Planned Parenthood in Nebraska, said it’s important to note that abortions aren’t only used in the early stages after unwanted pregnancies. They are also used to save the life of a pregnant person where abnormalities in the fetus can be fatal.

“Some people choose to have an abortion because it’s the healthiest option for their bodies,” Grubb said, noting that if abortions were banned, “I can almost guarantee that we would see an increase in maternal deaths that is common in our state.” is already pretty bad, especially for Black women.”

As Pro Publica has found that the maternal mortality rate in the United States is higher than in other developed countries, with black women dying three times as often as white women. However in one amicus short Filed as part of the Dobbs case, abortion advocates rank Nebraska’s maternal support higher than many other Southern states, although the state was still listed as a point of concern.

The document from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services also details the reasons patients requested an abortion. A third of the patients declined to answer. Of those who responded, 38% said they and their partner did not use contraception. 16% said their birth control failed. Others pointed to other factors in their main reason for having an abortion: fetal abnormality, life threatening, mental health, sexual assault, and socioeconomic reasons.

“Not allowing people to make the choice that is healthiest for their body and personal health. We will no doubt see health effects from this,” Grubb said.

She hopes lawmakers should keep women’s health in mind when deciding whether and how to further restrict abortion. Depending on the language, restrictions can act as a deterrent for some doctors.

Noting the Texas SB8, which allows people to sue anyone involved in an abortion procedure in Texas, Grubb said she’s heard from some obstetricians and gynecologists who are reluctant to perform procedures because they fear legal action.

“These are people who have been trained in medical procedures — they’re trained professionals,” Grubb said. “Some of them are people who have been practicing for years, decades. And they are reluctant to treat their patients because a non-medically trained legislator is telling them what they can and cannot do in their practice.”

Depending on the nature of the ban, Grubb said, it’s possible Nebraska could continue to lose young people because it’s viewed as an unsafe state for women — which would worsen the state’s workforce problems.

A changing landscape

While many other Republican-led states have already taken action to limit abortion in their states, Nebraska is among a minority that has taken a slower approach. Abortions are also still possible in Iowa and Kansas, but both states are taking steps to further restrict the procedure.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has said she hopes to pass a “fetal heartbeat.” invoice, but she has no plans to call a special session of the Iowa Legislature to do so. Such a calculation could mean that most abortions could not be performed after 6 weeks after fertilization.

In Kansas, voters decide about a constitutional amendment that would prohibit abortion. abortion clinics in Wichita and Overland Park were inundated with women seeking help from Oklahoma, Texas and other southern states.

What’s next?

Gov. Pete Ricketts has said he’d like to see abortions banned in Nebraska now that states have the power to limit the procedure.

Abortion rights and anti-abortion rights groups are preparing behind the scenes for a possible special meeting. Ricketts hasn’t made a decision yet. Earlier this year, anti-abortion laws narrowly failed in the state legislature.

If state senators got enough votes for anti-abortion legislation, abortion rights groups say the impact will be immense, in addition to depriving people of their health care.

Grubb pointed out that the state would not be ready for an increase in young new mothers.

“There are no paid family vacations in Nebraska. Access to Medicaid is very limited. Pregnant women can get Medicaid for 60 days, and that’s nothing if you’re about to have a baby — especially if you’ve had a cesarean or if you’ve had any complications,” Grubb said.

The abortion rights advocate stressed that these options are all needed to support new parents – in addition to access to abortion.

The Nebraska Family Alliance disagreed. Nate Grasz, the Alliance’s policy director, said the state is already in a good position to accept more births and more new parents when legislation eventually bans abortion.

“I think it will be important for the state and the private sector to do whatever we can to provide more resources to those in need so that we can truly embrace life and support full-fledged families to thrive,” Grasz said.

The Nebraska Family Alliance said it will seek to increase efforts to improve child support systems.

“Currently, there are more families waiting for adoption than children being put up for adoption. And I think we need to look at ways to improve our care and adoption system while also putting in place the necessary safeguards to make it easier and more affordable for families to keep their homes open,” Grasz said.

The Nebraska Family Alliance also said it would like to see more education about life in the womb. Grasz said expectant mothers should consider adoption rather than abortion.

“I think it’s really important that we remember that these aren’t just numbers — that behind every one of those stats, there’s a baby and also a mother and a father,” Grasz said. “These are real people with real stories who deserve caring, compassion and real support.”

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