Thousands gather at State Capitol for 45th annual Nebraska Walk for Life rally

Thousands gather at State Capitol for 45th annual Nebraska Walk for Life rally
World-Herald News Service

LINCOLN — Since the last anti-abortion rally a year ago, Nebraska’s budget defunded Planned Parenthood, another Republican appointee was added to the U.S. Supreme Court and, most recently, New York passed its Reproductive Health Act.

But Saturday’s 45th annual Nebraska Walk for Life in Lincoln, held each January near the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, was similar to recent years.

Gov. Pete Ricketts spoke on the Capitol steps, while counterprotesters across the street chanted “pro-death Pete.” U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, Rep. Don Bacon and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry and Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert also addressed the crowd, which was estimated in the thousands.

“We’ve had some wins and losses this past year,” Bacon said. “Victory does not start, though, at the ballot box. … It starts with winning hearts and minds.”

Later, abortion protester Ivan Ivanov of Lincoln approached pro-choice protesters, which he said he’s done in previous years. They debated when life begins, he said, and they discovered neither support the death penalty.

“Nobody raised their voice,” Ivanov said. “We had a nice conversation.”

The public officials spoke against New York’s recent law, signed Tuesday, which allows abortion until birth if a mother’s health is a risk or the life isn’t viable.

“This movement is the way of the future,” Sasse said. “The movement of death in New York that we saw this week, it is going to end up on the dust bin of history.”

Nebraska’s budget bill last year ended federal funding under Title X to Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, and the governor has included that language in budget proposals again this year.

The Department of Health and Human Services awarded some of the funds freed up by the restriction to clinics that do not provide contraceptive services.

Other bills related to abortion were introduced in the Legislature this month on both sides of the issue.

Women seeking abortions would have to be told that it may be possible to reverse a medication-induced abortion under Legislative Bill 209, introduced by Sen. Joni Albrecht of Thurston. The state would have to post information about providers who can help with a reversal. Albrecht spoke to the crowd Saturday.

A requirement that a physician is in the room while abortions are performed would be removed under LB 503, introduced by Omaha Sen. Megan Hunt. It would reverse a 2011 Act that made telemedicine abortions a felony in Nebraska.

Ricketts, however, also turned focus away from laws and to culture.

“In the end, we’ll not only be the pro-life state of Nebraska,” Bacon said. “We will someday be the pro-life nation, the United States.”