Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman last week signed into law two pieces of legislation that will ultimately test the constitutional validity of the infamous 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The first and most controversial of the measures is LB1103, called “The Abortion Pain Prevention Act.” This legislation bans abortions after the 20th week of gestation based on the strong evidence that a pre-born baby’s brain develops the sensory capacity for pain at around 21 weeks.
“I feel the state has a legitimate and substantial interest in protecting the life of an unborn child at 20 weeks,” said the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Mike Flood, speaker of the Legislature.
The second bill, LB594, requires a woman seeking an abortion to complete a screening process for mental health and other problems that could arise following the procedure.
“Women are suffering from avoidable physical and psychological complications that may have been prevented or minimized had they received adequate pre-abortion screening and counseling,” said state Sen. Cap Dierks, who introduced the bill. “Women deserve better. LB594 will ensure that women receive the appropriate standard of care.”
Dave Heineman became governor of my home state in 2005 when Mike Johanns resigned that position to become President George W. Bush’s secretary of Agriculture. Heineman had been in politics all his life, having served as chief of staff to a congressman, as a city councilman in his home town of Fremont, as executive director of the Nebraska Republican Party, and as Nebraska’s state treasurer, before becoming Johanns’ lieutenant governor.
Heineman’s first big political test as governor came when legendary former Nebraska football coach and three-term congressman Tom Osborne decided to challenge him for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2006. Osborne had been elected with margins most politicians can only dream of — as high as 92% — in his sprawling Western Nebraska congressional district, which encompasses 66 of the state’s 93 counties.
Heineman defeated Osborne by running a flawless campaign and by vetoing a bill that would have given in-state tuition rates to the children of illegal aliens. The veto was overridden by Nebraska’s one-eyed legislature (my pet name for our nonpartisan Unicameral), but Heineman’s point was made. Osborne, who had supported the bill, went on to lose the primary election — even in his own congressional district — primarily over that issue.
Since that time, Dave Heineman has been one of the most conservative governors in modern times. He signed tax cuts that reduced the income tax, the state’s portion of the property tax, and did away with the state death tax. He called the Legislature into special session to address a budget shortfall, informing them that they had to accomplish their task through budget cuts because he would veto any tax increases.
During the battle in Congress over Obamacare, Heineman made national news by announcing that the state of Nebraska did not want Democrat Sen. Ben Nelson’s backroom deal that became known as the “Cornhusker Kickback.” In a public letter to Nelson, the governor informed him that Nebraskans did not want special treatment, only equal treatment, and urged him to vote against the bill (an admonition shared by 67% of Nebraskans, which Nelson ultimately ignored).
Earlier this year, Heineman refused to authorize taxpayer-funded prenatal care for illegal aliens and took heat from the pro-life community, who said that the action would cause women to seek more abortions. But the governor’s pro-life bona fides are solid and he stood firm in opposition to the use of taxpayer money for illegals in any form.
The state of Nebraska is leading the way on the issue of protecting the sanctity of innocent human life. Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Dave Heineman and the courageous state senators who stood up for taxpayers, the traditional family and the sanctity of life, perhaps Nebraska can help lead the way out of the wilderness.