Nebraska Sen. Ricketts donates $500K to anti-abortion ballot campaign

April 17, 2024

The conservative effort to put an abortion ban on the ballot in Nebraska has been bankrolled entirely to date by Sen. Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.).

Ricketts donated $500,000 in cash on March 26 to the group Protect Women and Children, according to its campaign finance report filed with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission. The group reported no other donations.

“Nebraska’s commonsense abortion limits reflect our state’s strong culture of life. I support the Protect Women and Children ballot initiative because it protects Nebraska values and is a contrast to the extreme initiative the abortion lobby is pushing,” Ricketts said in a statement to The Hill.

Ricketts, who served as governor from 2015 to 2023, has funded other ballot initiatives. His family largely bankrolled a successful push to restore Nebraska’s death penalty through a ballot initiative in 2015.

The amendment seeks to enshrine a constitutional ban on abortions after the first trimester, which is about 12 weeks of pregnancy. It includes exceptions for “medical emergencies,” sexual assault or incest. Notably, there is no language in the amendment that would prohibit the conservative Legislature from making the ban stricter were it to pass.

The state currently has a law banning abortions after 12 weeks, but it’s not in the state constitution. There are exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the pregnant patient.

The campaign is backed by anti-abortion groups including Nebraska Right to Life and the Nebraska Family Alliance.

The organizers will have until July 3 to collect the signatures they need to put the question on the November ballot. They’ll need just under 123,000 signatures from 10 percent of Nebraska’s voters, along with signatures from 5 percent of voters in at least 38 of Nebraska’s 93 counties.

Nebraska voters could see competing ballot initiatives this fall.

Apart from the 12-week ban, a second amendment would enshrine in the constitution abortion protections up to the point of fetal viability, usually about 23 or 24 weeks. It also includes exceptions for later abortions when needed to “protect the life or health of the pregnant patient.”

Protect Our Rights, which is sponsoring the abortion protection measure, reported raising $473,000 through March 26.

“Decisions about pregnancy and abortion belong to Nebraskans, not politicians. From the start, it has been clear that anti-abortion groups and politicians who want to totally ban abortion will pull out all the stops to try to confuse voters and attempt to stop Nebraskans from protecting their rights this fall. This donation is just more proof of that,” the group said in a statement to The Hill.