Nebraska's abortion bill hasn't got a prayer

But that doesn't worry anti-choicers, who know that sometimes it's the battle, not the outcome, that matters

Published April 19, 2010 3:20PM (EDT)

We've seen a bold new measure restricting abortion pass Nebraska's legislature and get signed into law by the state's governor -- but we aren't likely to see it take effect. At least, that's how the Associated Press breaks it down in a lengthy explainer of the bill, which bans abortions at 20 weeks based on the claim that fetuses start to feel pain at that stage. The funny thing is anti-abortion activists are well aware of just how outrageous the bill is and how unlikely it is to withstand legal scrutiny. It seems that as long as they keep abortion on the national agenda and pro-choicers on the defensive, they will consider it a success.

Of course, abortion foes are pushing with all their might for the measure to actually take effect, but many are simply "hoping it will become the most important case on abortion to reach the U.S. Supreme Court in recent memory," says the AP. Why so important? It entirely rewrites the legal standard for abortion restrictions. Instead of hinging on viability, the measure's 5-month cutoff is based on certain (sketchy) doctors' claim that fetuses begin feeling pain then. The AP explains: "[Justice Anthony] Kennedy, a moderate conservative considered a swing vote, is seen by abortion opponents as their best chance for tighter restrictions on the procedure." It would be a revolutionary win for anti-abortion activists and could set a frightening new precedent.

Even if the high court found the bill unconstitutional -- which it is expected to do -- activists will have successfully pressured the Supreme Court into reconsidering abortion restrictions. That scenario might be a technical loss, but successfully staging the battle is a major win in and of itself.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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