After Dobbs ruling, abortion rights debate underpins race for District 36

The United States Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson last June influenced legislative campaigns across the country, including in Sarpy County’s Legislative District 36 contest.

With the court ruling that there is no federal constitutional right to abortion, overturning Roe v. Wade, the judges gave the power to regulate abortion to state houses across the country, making many legislative races essential for proponents and opponents of abortion rights.

District 36 is no exception. Once considered a reliable Republican seat in the officially nonpartisan legislature, the district was moved to Sarpy County in the redistricting. It offers an opportunity for a Democratic recovery, despite a voter registration disadvantage favoring Republicans.

The GOP had 14,032 registered voters in District 36 as of Oct. 1, according to the Nebraska Secretary of State’s Office. That’s 51.6% of voters in the constituency. Democrats had 5,763 registered voters, while 6,885 were nonpartisan registered voters.

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Angie Lauritsen

Rick Holdcroft

Rick Holdcroft

Angie Lauritsen, a registered Democrat in the nonpartisan race, said abortion rights have become a defining issue on the campaign trail.

Lauritsen supports maintaining the status quo for abortion rights in Nebraska – established under the Roe standard – while his opponent, Republican Rick Holdcroft, favors additional restrictions on abortion.

A former Gretna City Council member and small business owner, Lauritsen serves as chairman of the political and legislative committee of Survivors Rising, a metropolitan nonprofit that advocates for victims of abuse in the Nebraska Legislature and before local organizations to improve policies.

She said that with her expertise in sexual assault issues, and as a survivor herself, she can clarify any proposed changes to Nebraska law.

“Since the Dobbs decision came down — and it says a lot of civil rights decisions have to be made at the state level — it puts so much more pressure on the legislative races this year,” Lauritsen said. “I feel that pressure.”

Speaking with voters, Lauritsen said she’s only met a few people who support a complete abortion ban in Nebraska.

“Everyone thinks there should be exemptions for rape, incest and for the life of the mother,” she said. “The extreme ban that some want to have is far too extreme for the majority of the district and for many Nebraskans.”

Current state law prohibits abortion after 20 weeks, with some exceptions, such as when a woman is at risk of life-threatening or seriously compromised health.

“I’m able to talk to neighbors and let them know that I think where we are right now with regulations and laws in the state of Nebraska is where everyone is comfortable. We don’t want any more restrictive bans on our reproductive health,” Lauritsen said.

Lauritsen characterized his opponent as being “against all exemptions, including for the life of the mother. He is also against contraception and (in vitro fertilization), which I find difficult to hear, because my daughter has was created by FIV”.

Holdcroft, who describes himself as “pro-life”, denies being against contraception, and he said preventing IVF would be “counter-intuitive” to producing life. His campaign website states that he “believes that life begins at conception and should be valued and protected from that point on”.

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, many state laws state that “personality” begins at fertilization, and broad legislative language could “intentionally or unintentionally involve and even prohibit IVF and certain other ART procedures.” (assisted reproductive technology)”. The company noted that Nebraska law currently “does not appear” to apply to IVF.

In an election survey conducted by Nebraskans Embracing Life Action, Holdcroft said he opposed “the artificial formation of human life outside the womb for the purpose of cloning or fertility treatment, such as fertilization. in vitro and embryonic stem cell research” and that he supports the removal of federal mandates on health care plans to cover “abortive contraception”.

The 28-year-old US Navy veteran and former aerospace executive said in an interview that he supports a “common sense approach” to abortion regulations.

“I think we need to have a clinic license. I think we need to have parental consent for minors and informed consent for procedures that are going to be done in these clinics,” Holdcroft said.

“When it comes to restrictions, I think we need to take a scientific approach, looking at the heartbeat, when the baby feels pain, and the viability of the baby,” he said. “I would oppose any taxpayer funding of abortions, and I think there’s also an element in any legislation that goes forward for abortion regulation that looks at helping and supporting low-income mothers to help them carry their babies to term.”

A human fetus does not have the ability to feel pain for at least 24 weeks, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The organization asserts that viability is the confluence of several complex factors unique to each pregnancy.

Asked about exceptions for abortions in the proposed legislation — including rape, incest or the preservation of a pregnant woman’s life — Holdcroft declined to provide details.

“These are such small percentages of the actual abortions that are performed. My approach, again, would be more heartbeat-based, when the baby feels pain, and then viability,” he said.

When asked a second time if he would approve of exceptions, Holdcroft reiterated that his approach would be “science-based”. When asked, he said he does not consider the removal of an ectopic pregnancy an abortion.

A survey for the Nebraska Right to Life 2022 General Election Guide showed Holdcroft responding that there was “no case” that abortion should be legal.

In April, a legislative filibuster blocked a vote on Legislative Bill 933, a so-called “trigger law” that would have effectively ended abortion in Nebraska when Roe v. Wade was overturned. Supporters did not receive all 33 votes to end the filibuster in a final vote of 31-15.

A subsequent attempt to call a special session after the failure of the Dobbs decision was unsuccessful.

“There’s a lot of partisanship going on, and the 33-vote filibuster, I think, has really delayed a lot of legislation that I think most Nebraskans would support,” Holdcroft said. “It goes back to the conservative views of most Nebraskans and, frankly, the conservative percentage in the unicameral. Getting 33 out of 49 votes is pretty tough.

Holdcroft said if he wanted a healthy debate, he would favor lowering the filibuster threshold to around 20. His opponent disagrees with that recommendation.

“Unlike the dysfunction you see in Congress, Nebraska’s nonpartisan unicameral is unique and allows us to get things done and prevent extreme legislation from becoming law,” Lauritsen said. “These rules are important and I will oppose any effort to turn Nebraska into Washington, DC.”

“(People) are really tired of far-right and far-left people going to their corners and throwing darts at each other,” Lauritsen said. “Can we go back to treating everyone as human and treating everyone with dignity and respect? Really working for our communities to do good things? »

District 36 was moved in 2021 from central Nebraska — where it represented Custer, Dawson and part of Buffalo counties — to Sarpy County to accommodate population growth. It now encompasses the southern and far western half of Sarpy County, including Gretna and Springfield, as well as a small section of Millard. It also represents some pockets of Papillion and Bellevue.

Legislative District 36

Legislative District 36


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