LINCOLN — Two women with two stories of desperation, played out in parking lots hundreds of miles apart, illustrated dueling abortion bills Wednesday before the Judiciary Committee.

Alex Alcala told lawmakers about sitting in her car in Lincoln, four years ago, with the test in her hand that confirmed her pregnancy.

“My entire body just sank into the seat,” she said. “I started panicking, crying, everything. My first thoughts were, ‘How do I end it all for myself?’ ”

Rebekah Hagan spoke of walking out of the California clinic where she had taken the first of two medications to end her pregnancy, with the second medication in a sack.

“By time I got to my car, I broke down and started to feel intense sadness and regret,” she said. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, what did I just do?’ ”

Alcala, then a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, ended up choosing abortion. She got a medication abortion at a Planned Parenthood of the Heartland clinic in Iowa, which used telemedicine to connect her with a doctor.

On Wednesday, she spoke in support of Legislative Bill 503, which would repeal the state law prohibiting medication abortions from being done using telemedicine in Nebraska.

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Hagan searched online and found information about reversing a medication abortion. She got connected with a doctor, who prescribed the hormone progesterone, and went on to give birth to a boy.

She came to Nebraska to testify for LB 209, which would require that women undergoing medication abortions be told that the process may be reversed if steps are taken quickly.

State Sen. Megan Hunt, who introduced LB 503, said abortion is the exception to Nebraska laws allowing the use of telemedicine for all types of health care that do not involve a physical procedure.

She said the ban means women in rural areas and low-income women have a more difficult time getting abortions.

Hunt argued that there is no medical reason for the ban. She cited a seven-year study in Iowa that found no difference in outcomes for women who got medication abortions with a doctor in the room compared to those in which secure videoconferencing connected doctor and patient.

But opponents said that lifting the ban would expand abortions in the state. They also argued that the ban helps ensure patient safety by requiring that a doctor be available in case complications develop.

Marion Miner, speaking for the Nebraska Catholic Conference, said the federal Food and Drug Administration has linked 22 deaths to mifepristone, one of the two drugs used in medication abortions.

Opponent and proponent groups switched sides when it came to LB 209, introduced by Sen. Joni Albrecht of Thurston.

Albrecht described her bill as “pro-woman, pro-information, pro-life and pro-choice.”

She said recent evidence shows that it may be possible to reverse a medication abortion and continue a pregnancy if a woman gets high doses of progesterone within 72 hours of taking mifepristone, the first drug of a medication abortion, and she has not taken misoprostol, the second drug.

Teresa Kenney, a women’s health nurse practitioner, pointed to a 2018 study that concluded that up to 68 percent of cases can be successfully reversed using the protocol. She said that compares to about 25 percent of cases in which pregnancy continues after taking mifepristone but not the second drug of a medication abortion.

But opponents questioned the study, noting that the women included in the study were not all given the same protocol. They said pregnancy continues in as many as 50 percent of cases in which women take only the first drug of a medication abortion.

Sofia Jawed-Wessel, a public health professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said the study numbers could be skewed because ultrasounds were used to exclude some women whose pregnancies had ended.

Martha Stoddard keeps legislators honest from The World-Herald's Lincoln bureau, where she covers news from the State Capitol. Follow her on Twitter @StoddardOWH. Phone: 402-473-9583.

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