Legal arguments in challenge to new abortion ban put off until July 19

By: - June 13, 2023 5:15 am

Omahans rally in support of abortion rights at Memorial Park a year ago, just after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade. View is to the west along Dodge Street. (Cindy Gonzalez/Nebraska Examiner)

LINCOLN — Courtroom arguments have been delayed until July 19 in the legal challenge to Nebraska’s new law that restricts abortion and transgender health care for minors.

That means that Legislative Bill 574 — which limits abortions to 12 weeks of gestation — remains in effect for now.

The abortion ban was immediately effective upon the signature of Gov. Jim Pillen on May 22. The portion of the bill that bans gender-affirming surgeries for minors doesn’t go into effect until October.

After a 15-minute court hearing held via Zoom on Monday morning, Lancaster County District Court Judge Lori Maret decided to continue the court challenge until July 19 at 10 a.m.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the ACLU of Nebraska, who are representing a physician and clinic that perform abortions, maintain that LB 574 violates the Nebraska Constitution’s requirement that legislation be confined to a single subject.

They are asking the judge to either rule the law unconstitutional or issue a temporary injunction against it going into effect until their lawsuit is decided.

Meanwhile, lawyers with the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, which is defending the new law, are asking the judge to throw out the legal challenge to LB 574.

They maintain that the two aspects of the bill — abortion and transgender rights — are compatible because they both deal with health and welfare, and the powers of the state medical officer.

During the brief court hearing Monday, Maret rejected a request by Planned Parenthood/ACLU to argue the request for a preliminary injunction.

The judge said she wanted to hear the arguments on the motions together, at one hearing, rather than some arguments Monday and others July 19.

“Why would I want to hear something twice? That doesn’t seem very efficient to me,” Maret said.

In an affidavit filed Monday, Dr. Sarah Traxler, the medical director for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said the clinic was one of three abortion providers in Nebraska and had performed 4,631 abortions in the past three years.

Of those, 32% were after 12 weeks of gestational age, she said.

“Legal abortion is one of the safest procedures in contemporary medical practice,” Traxler wrote, and is a common practice, with one in four women having an abortion by age 45.

She said many women don’t know that they’re pregnant until after the first trimester, or 14 weeks.

For women living in poverty or without insurance, Traxler said, the financial and transportation barriers would prevent many from obtaining an abortion prior to 12 weeks.

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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska state government and the state for decades. Previously with the Omaha World-Herald, Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha Sun, he is a member of the Omaha Press Club's Hall of Fame. He grows hops, brews homemade beer, plays bass guitar and basically loves traveling and writing about the state. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation.