A Nebraska bill combining a ban on most abortions after 12 weeks and restrictions on gender-affirming care for transgender Nebraskans under 19 is poised to become law after the unicameral legislature in state voted for its passage on Friday.
Nebraska’s LB 574, also known as the “Let Them Grow Act” was first introduced to prevent health care providers from performing gender transition surgeries and restrict access to puberty blocking medication and hormone treatments for anyone under 19. in 12 weeks after lawmakers added a last-minute amendment to the bill on May 17.
Republican Governor Jim Pillen said he would sign the bill into law.
“All children deserve a chance to grow up and live happy, productive lives. This includes pre-born boys and girls, and this includes children struggling with their gender identity,” she said. in a statement after the passage of the bill. “These children deserve the opportunity to grow and explore who they are and what they want, and they can do so without making irreversible decisions that must do when they are fully grown.”
The measure was passed by a vote of 33-15, just meeting the threshold required, after a long debate and several efforts by opponents to delay the final vote. Chants from protesters in the halls of the state Capitol could be heard in the chamber as lawmakers spoke, with the Nebraska State Patrol arresting several people during the debate on charges ranging from disturbing the peace to obstructing a government operation.
The bill makes it illegal for medical personnel to perform an abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy – with exceptions for sexual assault, incest and medical emergencies. The bill does not define “medical emergency.” The legislation includes an emergency clause, meaning the new abortion rules will take effect the day after the governor signs them.
The bill also bans various treatments that fall under the umbrella of gender-affirming care. Some of its prohibitions, such as various gender-affirming surgeries, are rare for minors. Others, such as puberty blockers and other hormone treatments, are standard of care for many trans and nonbinary youth. The bill leaves the governor-appointed chief medical officer with the authority to make rules on access to puberty-blocking drugs and hormone treatments for Nebraskans under 19.
Unlike the abortion ban, the provisions regarding non-surgical gender-affirming care do not go into effect until October 1.
Some Republicans have expressed concern over the long-term consequences of the treatments. But major medical associations say gender-affirming care is clinically appropriate for children and adults with gender dysphoria — the psychological distress that can result when a person’s birth and sex assigned at birth is inconsistent, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
“The senators just voted to deny Nebraskans needed medical care and to trample on their freedom to make decisions about their own lives, families and futures,” said the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. of Nebraska Mindy Rush Chipman in a written statement after the vote.
Introduced by State Sen. Ben Hansen his “Preborn Child Protection Act” amendment earlier this month because of the failed LB626, or “The Heartbeat Act,” which banned most abortions after six weeks. That bill failed to overcome a filibuster in the legislature.
Hansen said the revised bill was born out of compromises to overcome the filibuster, which has a two-thirds vote needed to break that hurdle in Nebraska’s legislature — which consists of a lawmaking chamber unlike the typical one. chambers of the House and Senate.
He also said adding restrictions to the existing bill is Republicans’ last shot at passing abortion restrictions in the Cornhusker State, which Pillen has sought since overturning Roe v. Wade.
“We didn’t force things down people’s throats like we could have, I think we stopped and listened like we should have,” Hansen said, adding that Republicans got 33 votes. they need.
“These are some of the social and cultural hottest topics that are difficult to deal with,” he added. “Some people don’t deal with them. It’s us.”
Opponents of the bill don’t see the amendment as a compromise at all, with state Sen. Megan Hunt calling on Republicans to tackle abortion restrictions in a statement that “hasn’t past procedural maneuvers that undermine the respect of our institution.”
He asked his Republican colleagues to regain that respect by “listening to the voices of hundreds of thousands of Nebraskans pleading with them to stop this bigoted and hateful attack on our most fundamental rights.”
Under the state constitution, the legislation proposed in Nebraska is required to be limited to one subject, although the bill’s sponsors say the two issues addressed in its language are medical procedures.
This story has been updated with additional information.