August 26, 2011 — On Saturday, two Nebraska abortion laws will take effect, including one requiring minors to obtain written, notarized permission from a parent or guardian before accessing abortion services, and one banning the use of telemedicine for abortion services, the Omaha World-Herald reports (Stoddard, Omaha World-Herald, 8/26). Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) approved both measures in May.
Under the parental consent law (LB 690), a minor seeking abortion services can obtain consent from a grandparent if she provides a signed statement saying that her parents or guardian are abusive. If the minor decides not to have an abortion, she would be deemed emancipated from her parents or guardians so that she would be eligible for public assistance.
The second law (LB 521) is aimed at blocking Planned Parenthood of the Heartland from replicating a program that uses telemedicine to provide medication abortion services in 16 Iowa clinics. The measure would allow felony charges against physicians convicted of violating the requirements, with a punishment of up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/27).
The World-Herald notes that no abortion providers in Nebraska offer telemedicine services. Supporters of the telemedicine law said it is meant to be preventive. "We stopped something before it started," Nebraska Right to Life Executive Director Julie Schmit-Albin said.
Tracy Durbin, director of quality and risk management for PPH, said the parental notification law "throws up another barricade for minors," adding that it is "one more hoop they have to jump through." She predicts the law will have the largest impact on teens who have poor relationships with their parents, causing them to delay abortion care while they decide what to do. Durbin estimated that 90% of minors who seek abortion services at PPH clinics are accompanied by a parent. She said the law will require extra paperwork and that clinics have public notaries on staff to approve the consent forms (Omaha World-Herald, 8/26).
Repro Health Watch — an exciting new edition of the Women’s Health Policy Report — compiles and distributes media coverage of proposed and enacted state laws and ballot initiatives affecting women's access to comprehensive reproductive health care, as well as litigation in response to those provisions.