A Nebraska judge has ruled against a new law requiring women to undergo a mental health examination prior to receiving an abortion. The law was signed by Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman in the spring, and was scheduled to go into effect today. Last month Planned Parenthood of the Heartland filed a lawsuit challenging the anti-choice law, claiming the law would be difficult to regulate and would result in an effective ban in abortions due to the “impossible” requirements it places on abortion providers. Judge Laurie Smith Camp agreed with Planned Parenthood’s claims, and granted their request for a preliminary injunction against the law, reports the Associated Press.
According to the Associated Press, Camp ruled that the law would limit access to abortion by requiring mental health screenings that would be impossible to perform and regulate, given a literal interpretation of the law. Camp also disagreed with a provision in the law allowing abortion providers to be subject to civil suit if a screening were to fail to be comprehensive.
The mental health screening law was one of two controversial bills limiting women’s reproductive rights that Governor Heineman signed in spring. The second law makes abortion after 20 weeks illegal due to disputed evidence that says fetuses after 20 weeks can feel pain. That law is scheduled to take effect in October, reports the New York Times.
A Missouri bill instituting new abortion restrictions became law on Wednesday under the leadership of Governor Jay Nixon, but without his direct signature. According to the Associated Press, Nixon cited a provision in the Missouri constitution that allows a bill to become law without the governor’s signature, thereby avoiding a direct endorsement of the law. A spokesperson for the Democratic governor said, “Governor Nixon believes that given the legislative deliberations … the appropriate action is to allow the bill to go into effect.” No comment was made on the Governor’s personal opinion about the law.
The new law (SB 798)expands upon Missouri’s’ existing abortion restrictions by instituting a 24-hour waiting period prior to the procedure, requiring abortion providers to present patients with printed materials detailing the risks of the procedure as well as the physiological characteristics of an unborn fetus, and mandating that a qualified professional “discuss the medical assistance and counseling resources available, advise the woman of the father’s liability for child support, and provide information about the Alternative to Abortion Program.” The law also includes a provision that would ban abortion coverage in the state’s soon-to-be-created health insurance exchange mandated by the new federal health reform package.
Additionally, the law requires women to have the opportunity to view an “active ultrasound” and hear “the heartbeat of the unborn child, if the heartbeat is audible.” It also requires women to be told that a fetus may be able to feel pain. An abortion cannot be performed until women seeking the procedure complete and sign a checklist that states she has been fully informed of all required information.
In a statement released Wednesday, Planned Parenthood said the law “establishes new and difficult restrictions on access to abortion and forces women to receive state-mandated materials which contain ideological messages aimed at causing additional emotional distress-statements not widely agreed-upon by physicians, and not based upon science or medicine … A woman needs-and Missouri women get-information about the risks involved with, and alternatives to, abortion but the information should not be written to coerce, shame or pressure the woman into making a decision that is not right for her.”