In a move that has sparked heated debates and legal challenges, Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen signed a bill on Monday that imposes strict limitations on abortion and restricts gender-affirming medical care for individuals under 19. The newly enacted law, touted as a major victory for social conservatives, signifies a significant shift in Nebraska’s reproductive rights landscape.
The legislation, which immediately bans abortions at 12 weeks of pregnancy, comes into effect alongside a provision restricting gender-affirming care starting from October 1st. This hybrid measure links together a range of restrictions previously pursued by Republicans across the United States. Governor Pillen, holding the newborn daughter of close friends, emphasized the law’s purpose as safeguarding children and preserving life.
Opponents of the bill have vowed to challenge it legally. Mindy Rush Chipman, the head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska, condemned the law and expressed determination to explore all available options to overturn these regressive measures. Rush Chipman asserted that the governor’s decision demonstrates a blatant disregard for Nebraskans’ freedom, health, and overall well-being. She highlighted the harmful consequences these bans are likely to impose, particularly on vulnerable communities.
Notably, Nebraska had not introduced a new abortion ban since 2010 when it became the first state to restrict the procedure after around 20 weeks of pregnancy. The current 12-week ban includes exceptions in cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is at risk. State Senator Joni Albrecht expressed her emotional desire to eventually implement a comprehensive ban on abortions at all stages of pregnancy.
Following the trend seen in other states, Nebraska has now joined the list of at least 18 states that have passed laws limiting or prohibiting gender-affirming medical care for minors. The new law restricts the use of hormone treatments and puberty blockers for individuals under 19, with the state’s chief medical officer responsible for establishing regulations on these therapies. Critics argue that such restrictions further marginalize transgender youth and endanger their well-being.
The legislative process leading to this outcome was marked by impassioned debates. The proposal to restrict gender-affirming care triggered an extensive filibuster led by Omaha Senator Machaela Cavanaugh and her progressive allies. By introducing multiple amendments to every bill, they effectively slowed down the proceedings, compelling leadership to prioritize which bills to advance. Senator Kathleen Kauth, the proponent of the gender-affirming care restrictions, acknowledged that the filibuster inadvertently allowed for more extensive discussions and research on the issue.
While the controversial bill has drawn national attention, Nebraska remains resolute in implementing the restrictive measures. The law’s supporters, including Governor Pillen, argue that gender-affirming medical care may lead families astray by falsely promising happiness. As legal battles unfold and activists intensify their efforts, the consequences of this legislation reverberate through Nebraska and beyond, prompting a crucial examination of reproductive rights and LGBTQ+ healthcare.