Gov. Ricketts Signs Women’s Healthcare Initiatives
Signs first-in-the-nation perinatal hospice and breast cancer prevention measures.
LINCOLN – Today, Governor Pete Ricketts signed two bills into law aimed at improving the quality of women’s healthcare in Nebraska.
LB506 is a bill introduced by Senator Joni Albrecht of Thurston to adopt the “Compassion and Care for Medically Challenging Pregnancies Act.” This legislation will provide essential information regarding perinatal hospice care to a pregnant woman diagnosed with a lethal fetal anomaly.
“Women and families dealing with pregnancy or infant loss deserve compassionate care and support,” said Governor Ricketts. “Any parent going through the heartbreaking situation of being told that your child is not expected to live should receive information on the compassionate care available to them. Thank you to Senator Albrecht for sponsoring this bill, the courageous mothers who testified and each senator for their support. This pro-life, pro-woman, and pro-family legislation affirms that no matter how short, every human life has value and meaning.”
Right now, many parents are given minimal options when given a serious medical diagnosis during the early stages of a pregnancy. Unfortunately, most women and their families are not aware of the compassionate care available to them through perinatal hospice services.
“Over the last few months I have had wonderful, eye-opening and emotional conversations with experts, medical professionals, and families,” said Senator Joni Albrecht of Thurston. “The most tragic situation faced by mothers should be met with the most readily available information, compassion, and care. This small change will make a world of difference for families and that is what today is about.”
Several pro-family organizations and advocates helped guide the bill through the legislative process.
“Children are more than just their diagnosis,” said Nebraska Family Alliance (NFA) Policy Director Nate Grasz. “Whether it is for days, hours, or even only minutes, every parent deserves the opportunity to meet their child. Today is an important step towards helping families in devastating circumstances receive the compassionate care and support they deserve. NFA is honored to have helped pass this legislation and thank Governor Ricketts for his support.”
"Information at time of diagnosis is critical,” said Nebraska Catholic Conference Associate Director of Pro-Life and Family Jeff Kanger. “The information and awareness this bill will bring helps offer parents and children the best possible care, quality of life, and healing amid great heartbreak. It’s bills like this that show being pro-life is to recognize dignity of life in mothers, fathers, and children alike.”
Nebraska is the first state to pass legislation requiring information on hospice to be provided at the time of diagnosis.
GOVERNOR SIGNS CHERI’S LAW TO SUPPORT BREAST CANCER PREVENTION
At the signing ceremony, Governor Ricketts also signed LB195, also known as Cheri’s Law. LB195 requires health care facilities that perform mammograms to provide notification to the patient following the mammogram that would specifically identify the patient's individual breast classification, as well as provide additional information if the patient had dense breast tissue. If the patient has heterogeneously dense or extremely dense breast tissue, additional notification is required.
“Thank you to Senator Craighead for championing this bill to improve healthcare for women in our state,” said Governor Ricketts. “Common sense steps like LB195 can help save lives by empowering women to make the best decisions about the kind of healthcare they need by giving them access to better information.”
Senator Craighead introduced this bill in memory of Cheri Rauth of Omaha who passed away from breast cancer a year ago. Cheri received a stage IV breast cancer diagnosis within 18 months of her regular mammogram. Advocates believe that notification of dense breast tissue and additional screening options would have helped Cheri receive an earlier diagnosis.
"Cheri's Law, named for Cheri Rauth, will be an important tool to help ensure women with dense breast tissue receive the proper information,” said Sen. Joni Craighead of Omaha. “I was honored to carry this legislation addressing this overlooked component of women's healthcare needs. This law will provide every woman in Nebraska the information needed to make informed choices with her healthcare professional about her scope of care."
Advocates for the bill testified at the hearing that 95 percent of women do not know their breast density, and 40 percent of women do have dense breasts. High breast density is a greater risk factor than having two first-degree relatives with breast cancer. Including Nebraska, 32 states now have breast density reporting laws enacted, and several others are considering legislation this year.