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Nebraska AG won't defend law on abortion screenings

/ Source: staff and news service reports

Nebraska's attorney general will not defend in court a new state law requiring health screenings for women seeking abortions, effectively preventing the controversial law from ever going into effect, according to his spokeswoman and court documents filed Wednesday.

Attorney General Jon Bruning agreed to a permanent federal injunction against enforcement of the law, which faces a challenge from Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said his spokeswoman Shannon Kingery.

"We will not squander the state's resources on a case that has very little probability of winning," she said.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland filed a lawsuit last month in U.S. District Court in Nebraska over the law approved in the spring by state lawmakers. The group said the measure could be difficult to comply with and could require doctors to give women irrelevant information.

Jill June, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said court documents were filed within minutes of Bruning's announcement to make the injunction permanent. A federal judge still must sign off on the agreement, though it wasn't immediately known when that would be.

"We have maintained from day one ... that this law was unconstitutional, and we are coming close to end of this legal battle," June said.

The law would require women wanting abortions to be screened by doctors or other health professionals to determine whether they had risk factors indicating they could have mental or physical problems after an abortion.

The law was to take effect July 15, but a federal judge has temporarily blocked it from taking effect.

The health screening measure was one of two controversial abortion laws passed by state lawmakers this spring that Gov. Dave Heineman signed.

The other one would ban abortions starting at 20 weeks based on assertions from some doctors that fetuses feel pain at that stage of development. That law is scheduled to go into effect on Oct. 15.