You’ll often hear me say that Nebraska is a pro-life state. I say this because Nebraska has a long, bipartisan tradition of working together to protect life through the years. One of the state’s first pro-life victories came from Senator Bernice Labedz of Omaha, a Democrat, who led the effort to enact a law requiring parental notification before a minor receives an abortion. Since then, Senators like Mike Foley, Mike Flood, Lydia Brasch, and Tony Fulton have all led successful efforts to pass great pro-life bills into law over the last three decades.

This week, I hosted pro-life Senators at the State Capitol to help celebrate the passage of LB 209. This bill, brought by State Senator Joni Albrecht of Thurston, helps strengthen the state’s informed consent laws by requiring that information be provided to expectant mothers regarding the reversal of medication abortion. The law will now ensure that women who have begun the abortion pill process have knowledge of their healthcare options should they choose to carry their pregnancy to term. By expanding access to information, this bill continues Nebraska’s ongoing commitment to support the women who play a special role in nourishing new life.

Getting this pro-life victory had special meaning given the recent legislation in New York that removes protections for unborn babies up until the moment of birth. I am heartbroken and dismayed by this development, and many Senators and I wanted to reaffirm our state’s resolute pro-life commitments in light of it.

This year’s accomplishment built on great work that has been happening in Nebraska over the last few years. In 2017, Senator Albrecht championed a bill called the Compassion and Care for Medically Challenging Pregnancies Act. This act allows physicians who diagnose unborn children with a fetal anomaly to provide the parents with information pertaining to perinatal hospice care. Before this legislation, many parents were provided minimal options when given a serious medical diagnosis during the early stages of a pregnancy.

Last year, the Legislature also approved LB 1040 to provide commemorative certificates to mothers who miscarry prior to the 20th week of pregnancy. With this bill, the state humanely recognizes the loss that an expectant mother undergoes through miscarriage. We have also launched a new partnership between my office and No Footprint Too Small, a non-profit that helps families who experience pregnancy loss. Thanks to the initiative of Erin Konecky, the 2019 Nebraska Mother of the Year, we are providing sympathy cards to families to help support them as they grieve.

As Nebraskans we have a duty to care for pre-born children, and this includes a responsibility to the mothers who nurture them. In light of this responsibility, I created a new maternity leave program for state teammates. This program allows expecting mothers or new mothers to receive donated vacation time from their co-workers to extend their paid family medical leave.

We are also working to advance the dignity of human life through the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The Division of Developmental Disabilities at DHHS has cut back on bureaucratic paperwork, reducing the size of their application for services from 14 pages to 3. We are answering the phones more quickly at ACCESSNebraska where Nebraskans apply for Medicaid and economic assistance. Before I took office, call wait times were over 24 minutes. Now, we have been answering the phones in under five minutes for over three years. And our SNAP Next Step Program is helping families become more financially independent. People who successfully complete the program have seen an average increase of $11,000 in their annual income.

Recognizing the dignity of all human life has been, is, and will remain a core priority for our state. As we work on pro-life legislation for next year, I invite you to join us in affirming the preciousness of life and raising awareness of valiant efforts to preserve it. If you would like an update on our pro-life initiatives, or have questions about them, please write me at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or call 402-471-2244. Through our united actions, Nebraska can be a beacon to the rest of the country in upholding the beauty and worth of all human life.