Posted Apr 14, 2010 11:42 am CDT
A Nebraska abortion bill signed into law on Tuesday limits most abortions after 20 weeks on the theory that the fetus can feel pain at that point.
Critics say the law, the first in the nation to restrict abortions on the basis of fetal pain, is intended to set up a new challenge to Roe v. Wade, the New York Times reports.
Abortion opponents see an opening for a legal challenge in the Supreme Court’s 2007 ruling upholding a ban on so-called partial-birth abortions, the Associated Press reports. They say the ruling, Gonzales v. Carhart, suggested states have an interest in protecting fetuses. Both sides say the swing vote on the issue belongs to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.
The Nebraska law takes effect on Oct. 15, and allows abortions after 20 weeks only in cases of medical emergency, or if the mother faces imminent death or a risk of irreversible physical harm. The prior law banned abortions after viability, generally considered to be at about 22 weeks at the earliest.