Republican Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen has signed into law a bill that prohibits abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy and imposes restrictions on gender-affirming medical care for minors under the age of 19. The measure, which went into effect immediately, combines the two restrictions that Republicans have been pushing across the United States. However, the ban on gender-affirming care will take effect on October 1. Pillen signed the law while holding a friend’s 5-day-old daughter and with his two oldest granddaughters next to him. The governor referred to the law as “the most significant win for social conservative agenda in over a generation of Nebraska.”
The new law provides an exception to the 12-week abortion ban for rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother. In 2010, Nebraska approved a law restricting abortions to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Senator Joni Albrecht of Oregon is working on a ban on abortion in all cases.
While fourteen states have enacted an abortion ban throughout pregnancy, Nebraska’s law will also prevent minors under the age of 19 from undergoing gender-confirming surgery and will restrict the use of hormone treatments in minors. The state’s chief medical officer, a political appointee and ENT doctor, will be responsible for setting the rules for these therapies. At least 18 states in the US have enacted laws that restrict or ban gender-affirming medical care for minors, while proposals are pending before the governors of Texas and Missouri.
Opponents of the law have expressed their strong disagreement, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska (ACLU) has threatened to challenge the measure in court. The head of the ACLU of Nebraska said that “every option is on the table to undo these regressive measures” and accused the governor of disregarding the freedom, health, and well-being of Nebraskans.
Nebraska lawmakers spent hours debating a package that included the two hot-button items and ultimately passed it on Friday. Conservative lawmakers were able to end the filibuster and approve the bill. The proposal restricting gender-affirming care was the subject of an intense filibuster led by Omaha Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh, who challenged the bill’s passage with various amendments. The bill’s sponsor, Omaha Sen. Kathleen Kauth, said that the filibuster provided senators with more time to discuss and research the issue.
However, medical groups and advocates contend that such restrictions on gender-affirming care are harmful to transgender youth and further marginalize them. One Nebraska state senator, Megan Hunt, disclosed that her teenage son is transgender, and said she plans to leave the state. Pillen stated that the new law is meant to ensure that Nebraska families do not fall for “silliness” that gender-affirming care will make them happy.