We’re so used to hearing right-wing politicians use religion to justify their awful policy ideas that it can be jarring to hear a progressive lawmaker smack those ideas down in a barn burner of a speech. Yet that’s what Nebraska Senator Megan Hunt did yesterday in her (ultimately successful) effort to block an anti-abortion bill pushed by her conservative Christian colleagues.
Yesterday, the conservatives in the Nebraska legislature were debating a bill that would’ve banned abortions the second the Supreme Court gives them permission to do so—presumably this summer when all signs point to the conservative justices demolishing Roe v. Wade. (These kinds of laws are referred to as “trigger bills.”)
Senator Joni Albrecht’s bill, LB 933, would have held doctors criminally liable for performing an abortion, jailing them for up to 20 years if convicted. It wouldn’t matter if the procedure was the result of rape or incest. It would inevitably lead to women in Nebraska seeking out unsafe abortions, putting their own lives in danger. The wording of the bill could also apply to doctors offering IVF treatments since that can lead to the destruction of embryos.
Albrecht’s goal was to protect fetuses at all costs, no matter how much women would suffer as a result of their pregnancies, because Republicans like her simply don’t give a shit about the health and well-being of those women.
It was a bad bill, pure and simple. But since conservatives have the majority in the unicameral legislature, it looked like the bill would pass. All they had to do to end debate, override a progressive filibuster, and proceed to the vote, was get 33 supporters in the chamber (to give them a super-majority).
Instead, they only got 31. The bill failed. And with only a few days left in the legislative session, there are few options for anti-abortion zealots to mount another challenge to women’s autonomy.
And one reason it failed was because of senators like Megan Hunt, a champion of reproductive rights (and an atheist, no less), who used her time to call out the harm this faith-based legislation would cause.
Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha, who led the eight-hour filibuster, described LB 933 as “a church bill” brought by “Christian religious extremists.” While senators criticized Hunt for taking time away from discussing other amendments, Hunt said that was her intent.
“You’re going to wait eight hours, because I’m driving this ship, and it’s an eight-hour cruise,” Hunt said.
In a speech that deserves to go viral, she even noted that there were other anti-abortion bills that conservatives could have passed, but they chose the most extreme version, and that strategy ended up backfiring.
Just listen to Senator Hunt take control of the legislative process, beat back the gentle language her anti-abortion colleagues used in their speeches, and use her leverage to threaten every bill that those extremists want passed.
Listen, especially, to the final lines of her speech.
Iowa and Minnesota and Colorado and Kansas do not have trigger bans. Wyoming, South Dakota, and Missouri do. And also, for Senator Flood to say that this doesn’t go into effect if Roe is not fully overturned, that’s not true either. That’s totally wrong.
In the bill, on page 3—words matter, colleagues. This bill bans IVF. It bans Plan B… It prevents helping women who have ectopic pregnancies.
And Senator Flood was wrong about the other thing he said, too. On page 3, line 16, “The United States Supreme Court overrules, in whole or in part, Roe v. Wade…” Proponents of this bill have no shame left. I will cherish the time that I have worked here forever, but when I am term-limited, I will probably not talk to most of you ever again. That’s just a reality. You’re not my friends. You’re my co-workers.
If you think my 11-year-old should be forced to give birth, you are not my friend.
This isn’t about the babies. This is about the words of this bill. And you chose the wrong bill. You had two other abortion-restrictive bills that you could have put through, and you chose the wrong bill.
The national press is lit up about how Nebraska wants to ban IVF and ban Plan B and emergency contraception. It’s lit up about how this bill prevents ectopic pregnancies for women—the people with ectopic pregnancies—from getting health care.
Let me explain to you how it’s going to go down if this bill moves forward today… If this moves forward, the first thing that will happen is I’ll open on a motion to indefinitely postpone the election law bill that’s coming up next. If this bill moves, colleagues, that bill doesn’t move. And we’ll be here until midnight or until there’s a motion to adjourn, and we’ll pick it up again tomorrow.
The language is clear: No doctor in the state of Nebraska will perform IVF if this bill passes. In every abortion debate, we say that it’s the patient’s health, not politics, that should guide every medical decision, and you have no defense on IVF. You would need an amendment to fix it, and you’ve messed up so bad, you’re never gonna get an amendment. There is 0% chance, on select or final, that LB 933 is going to be amended. So if you’re out here making yourself feel better, saying “I will vote for it on general, and we will fix it,” no we won’t. What you’re gonna do is contribute to wasting more time. There is no scenario where this will be amended, because I got to it first. You guys pulled the wrong bill. If this bill advances, IPP motions [to indefinitely postpone activity] are going on the bills of every proponent, because to me, yeah, this is personal.
I am not a person who can say, if you think my 11-year-old should be forced to give birth, that we can still be friends. I don’t understand a person who can say something like that. Maybe it’s a person who can’t give birth. Maybe it’s a person who’s never been raped. Somebody who doesn’t have a clue what it is to go through it…
In life, sometimes we go through things where we have to draw a boundary. It is healthy for me, as a mother, as a rape survivor, to draw a boundary and say if you think that my child should be forced to give birth, you are not my friend.
And if I go to the Pearly Gates and meet your God someday—which sounds great, I hope I do—I don’t think I’m gonna get in any trouble for killing all of your bills who vote for this. I don’t think your God’s gonna have any problem with that. And I don’t think I’m gonna see any of you there either.
That’s the nicest way I’ve ever heard a secular politician tell her conservative Christian colleagues they’re going to burn in hell and that God would be on her side.
And she did it because her colleagues were hell-bent on making sure women who became pregnant against their will, or who couldn’t get pregnant but wanted to, or who couldn’t give birth as a result of a biological error, had no simple, safe options available to them. The conservative extremists wanted to make those women suffer.
Megan Hunt fought back. And she won.
It’s so easy to be cynical about politics. It’s especially easy when you look at the kinds of laws proposed and (often) passed in red states. But then you hear a lawmaker who genuinely has the voters’ best interests at heart use her power for all the right reasons and it’s inspiring.
Senator Hunt is a shining example of why politics matters and why people with a passion for these causes need to run for office. Even when they don’t have the numbers to pass all the progressive legislation they want, they can still serve an important role in preventing bad legislation from becoming a reality.
People in Nebraska will be safer because of what she and her like-minded colleagues accomplished last night.
By the way: Senator Hunt is up for re-election this year. You can contribute to her campaign right here.