EDITORIAL: Expand access to abortion care
January 02nd, 2022
As a mom, I know firsthand that the decision about whether and when to become a parent is one of the most consequential life decisions we make. That’s why I believe so strongly that Nebraskans should have the freedom to make their own choices about what is best for their lives and their families, including decisions about abortion care.
Put simply, decisions about reproductive health care aren’t mine to make. They belong to Nebraskans, not the government.
Abortion is safe and legal in Nebraska, but lawmakers who are opposed to those rights have added layers of medically unnecessary barriers that make the procedure harder to access than it should be. These barriers fall hardest on Nebraskans who are financially struggling, most often young Nebraskans, rural Nebraskans, and Nebraskans of color.
Every time I speak with local health care professionals who provide abortion care, I hear a similar story: Barriers related to cost and travel are taking decisions out of Nebraskans’ hands, risking their health, and sometimes putting them on track to be pushed into poverty or further into poverty. Although abortion is a right, some Nebraskans effectively don’t have access, so the right means nothing to them.
This is unacceptable, but not unsolvable. In the 2022 legislative session, my colleagues must join me in expanding access to care rather than joining the stampede of other state legislative bodies that are tripping over themselves to take away people’s rights and tie doctors’ hands.
Many Nebraskans don’t know about our medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion care until they or someone they love is in need of abortion care. For example, currently, you must purchase an optional rider from your private insurance if you need abortion care coverage in most situations. This can result in unexpected bills totaling thousands of dollars. Legislation I’m introducing this session could change that.
I’m also seeking an end to Nebraska’s inexplicable and unnecessary ban on telehealth for medication abortion. Omaha World-Herald readers may have seen the announcement that the Food and Drug Administration is permanently authorizing medication abortion by mail. This is an exceedingly safe two-pill procedure legal in 31 states, but state law currently denies telehealth options to Nebraskans by requiring them to be in the same room as a provider, even if it’s just to swallow a pill and go home. A bill I introduced last year, LB 276, would repeal this requirement and bring abortion care in line with every other treatment offered in this state. It is important for all Nebraskans, but especially those in rural communities who cannot access care close to home.
Finally, we need to recognize that given the safety of abortion care, many duties that are performed by physicians can also be safely done by our skilled licensed advance practice registered nurses, certified nurse-midwives, and physician assistants. I will be introducing a bill modifying requirements to allow these practitioners to better support patient access.
I hope other state senators will join me and the majority of Nebraskans who support these measures and will reject any proposal that would add new restrictions.
The common theme with all of this is that a patient’s health should drive medical decisions, not politics. These issues belong between Nebraskans, their families, and their doctors. We must trust Nebraskans to make the right decisions for their personal circumstances with the guidance and support of medical providers they trust. I believe that to my core and I know I’m in good company. According to the Pew Research Center, most Nebraskans oppose outlawing abortion.
None of us can walk in each other’s shoes. Nebraskans believe in respecting others’ privacy, dignity, and bodily autonomy. We need to shop shaming and stigmatizing and start doing better to ensure every Nebraskan and their rights are respected.
We must do better, and I believe that we can.
Megan Hunt of Omaha represents District 8 in the Nebraska Legislature.