Nebraska’s ban on dismemberment abortions is a step forward for women and unborn children, two groups which have systematically been silenced in U.S. society.
According to Legislative Bill 814, “dismemberment abortion means an abortion in which, with the purpose of causing the death of an unborn child, a person purposely dismembers the body of a living unborn child and extracts him or her one piece at a time from the uterus through use of clamps, grasping forceps, tongs, scissors or similar instruments that, through the convergence of two rigid levers, slice, crush or grasp a portion of the unborn child's body to cut or rip it off.”
According to necatholic.org, dismemberment abortion occurs during the second trimester and has been used in 1% to 7.5% of abortions in Nebraska in the last 10 years. The 21 to 186 lives that have been tragically lost to dismemberment abortion cannot be ignored, but Planned Parenthood’s claim that LB814 is about “placing additional burden on women” is unfounded. LB814 does not restrict access to the several other methods of abortion that are used for nearly all second-trimester abortions in Nebraska.
I don’t need to expand on the definition of dismemberment abortions already given by the state of Nebraska in order to emphasize the absolute atrocity it is that doctors — people who have taken an oath to “do no harm” — were allowed to perform this violent act on unborn children. If the description of dismemberment abortion does not enrage you or break your heart, I encourage you to read it more closely.
However, I do want to highlight the compassion and peace that can come from LB814 and the elements of this legislation we need to start including in our discourse about the right to life.
The legislation states that no woman on whose child a dismemberment abortion has been performed is legally at fault. In fact, these women are entitled to sue their practitioners. Another unfounded claim from Planned Parenthood says that LB814 “is about shaming (women).” However, it is a view firmly held by people who oppose abortion that, in the wake of any legislation that recognizes the injustice of abortion, it is absolutely necessary that we work for the healing of women involved.
Whether you identify as anti-abortion or pro-abortion rights, as Creighton affiliates we are called to be women and men for and with others, and that means treating women who have gone through abortions with love. For each of the 21 to 186 lives ended by dismemberment abortion, there is a mother finding out that the procedure she underwent is now illegal. The emotional uncertainty and pain that can follow such realizations is something only those going through this experience can imagine. Therefore, it is imperative that we treat women whose babies have died through dismemberment abortions with compassion so they can find peace. There is no blame, legal or otherwise, that should be placed on the mother or anyone except the physician who completed the procedure.
In addition to enabling the recognition of the dignity of unborn children, LB814 highlights the mental and physical health of the mother. While many abortion rights supporters admirably wish for the good of all women, their fight for legal abortion can overshadow the true experiences of women. Proponents of dismemberment abortions in particular believe it is a safe procedure. No abortion is “safe,” since most end in the baby’s death, some end in the mother’s death and nearly all lead to severe and lasting psychological and physical harm to women, according to the British Journal of Psychiatry. Dismemberment abortion is particularly unsafe because it is so gruesome. With the passing of LB814, however, it is now legally recognized that women have the right to reclaim their mental health and gain restitution for the loss of their physical health. There are positive and empowering developments that can come from this cognitive shift.
While LB814 is a step in the right direction, it by no means signals the end to the fight for unborn children and their mothers. We must stop listening to a society that continues to tell us that babies are an inconvenience and that women can’t both carry children and be successful. It is our responsibility as people who work for justice to empower women and help others recognize that human life is a gift.