Nebraska Passes Laws Limiting Gender-Affirming Health Care and Abortion
Author: Trudy Ring
Nebraska’s legislature has overcome a filibuster to give final approval to a bill that bans some gender-affirming care for transgender minors and most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy.
The one-chamber, officially nonpartisan legislature approved the combined bill Friday. Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh and other LGBTQ-supportive lawmakers had filibustered all bills this session in an effort to keep the anti-trans measure, Legislative Bill 574, from coming to a vote. But this week legislators managed to get 33 yes votes, the number required to break a filibuster, to advance the bill, then got the same number for Friday’s final passage, Nebraska TV station KOLN reports. Gov. Jim Pillen, a Republican, has promised to sign it into law.
The ban on gender-affirming care has taken a different form from the one originally introduced, but opponents say it could still do great harm. The original bill would have banned puberty blockers, hormone treatment, and gender-confirmation surgery for anyone under 19 for the purpose of transition, although genital surgery is almost never performed on minors. The new legislation bans only surgery, both genital and otherwise, but allows Nebraska’s chief medical officer to regulate the use of puberty blockers and hormones.
That officer, Timothy Tesmer, was appointed by Pilsen and has said he opposes all gender-affirming procedures for minors, so putting the power in his hands would likely result in a policy as restrictive as the one proposed in the first version of LB 574, possibly more so, according to opponents. Those already receiving nonsurgical care are exempt from new regulations.
On abortion, Nebraska currently bans the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The proposal to ban it after 12 weeks comes after legislation to prohibit it after six weeks of pregnancy failed. Abortion will still be allowed if a pregnancy results from rape or incest, or if it is life-threatening. There is no exception for fetal anomalies.
The abortion ban will go into effect as soon as Pillen signs the bill, because it contains an emergency clause. The regulations on gender-affirming care will be effective October 1.
Debate on the bill was intense Friday, as it has been throughout the session. “You 33 members do not represent the will of Nebraskans,” Sen. Megan Hunt told her conservative colleagues, according to The Hill.“You are more radical than Nebraskans.”
“You should know that there’s going to be a lawsuit if you pass this bill, with numerous plaintiffs, and the taxpayers are going to pay for that,” added Hunt, a bisexual woman who has a transgender son. A Nebraska lawyer filed an ethics complaint against her recently, claiming she would benefit financially if the bill fails, as it would make it easier for her to argue that Medicaid should cover her son’s care. She further noted that she and many others plan to leave the state over the legislation.
Hundreds of protesters assembled in the capitol rotunda Friday, chanting “Keep kids alive!” and “Kill this bill!” They could be heard in the chamber.
Cavanaugh, Hunt, gay Sen. John Fredrickson, and others vowed that the fight would go on. “We haven’t lost because we haven’t quit,” Hunt tweeted. “Tomorrow is another day to fight with love, compassion, and the knowledge that we are righteous in the cause of justice.”
Fredrickson tweeted an image of a letter endorsed by more than 1,200 health care professionals opposing LB 574. The letter was circulated to legislators.
Cavanaugh, Hunt, and Fredrickson have created a political action committee, Don’t Legislate Hate, to support pro-equality candidates for state legislatures around the nation.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Human Rights Campaign both condemned the passage of the bill.
“Senators just voted to deny Nebraskans medically necessary care and to trample their freedom to make decisions about their own lives, families and futures,” Mindy Rush Chipman, interim executive director of the ACLU of Nebraska, said in a press release. “The consequences of this drastic act of government overreach will be devastating. To be clear, we refuse to accept this as our new normal. This vote will not be the final word. We are actively exploring our options to address the harm of this extreme legislation, and that work will have our team’s full focus. This is not over, not by a long shot.”
“Lawmakers had the audacity to title this amendment the ‘Let Them Grow Act,’ yet in reality this legislation will make it difficult or impossible for a transgender or nonbinary child to grow up as their authentic self,” said a statement from Cathryn Oakley, HRC’s state legislative director and senior counsel. “Age-appropriate, medically necessary gender-affirming care is life-saving health care. Period. It’s supported by every mainstream American medical and mental health organization — representing millions of providers in the United States. Yet, politicians on a crusade to prove their extremism to the far fringes of their base clearly see it as a cheap political ploy. LGBTQ+ youth will suffer if these dangerous games with their lives continue. Conversations on gender-affirming care should be left between a doctor, a child, and their parents, just as it has been for decades. We urge Governor Pillen to reject this bill with a clear message that placing a target on the backs of vulnerable kids fails to solve Nebraska’s real issues.”
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Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Trudy Ring