Nebraska Legislature passes restrictions on abortions, gender-affirming care for minors

By Chris Dunker – May 19, 2023 – Lincoln Journal Star

My cmnt: The LJS does tilt to the Left quite a bit. What it would say if democrats and the Left could ever be truthful:

Nebraska Legislature passes further protections on the lives of unborn children and limits the mutilation of minor children confused about their gender

Nebraska lawmakers on Friday passed a bill that will further restrict access to abortion in the state and ban gender-affirming surgeries for minors.

At the end of an emotional, raucous day of debate that was briefly interrupted by a protest in the legislative chamber, the Legislature voted 33-15 to send the bill (LB574) accomplishing both to Gov. Jim Pillen.

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How they voted

Nebraska lawmakers gave final approval 33-15 to a bill (LB754) that bans some gender-affirming treatments for transgender youth as well as abortions after 12 weeks.

Voting yes (33)

Aguilar, Albrecht, Arch, Armendariz, Ballard, Bosn, Bostelman, Brandt, Brewer, Briese, Clements, DeKay, Dorn, Dover, Erdman, Halloran, Hansen, Hardin, Holdcroft, Hughes, Ibach, Jacobson, Kauth, Linehan, Lippincott, Lowe, McDonnell, Moser, Murman, Riepe, Sanders, Slama, von Gillern

Voting no (15)

Blood, Bostar, Cavanaugh, J., Cavanaugh, M., Conrad, Day, DeBoer, Dungan, Fredrickson, Hunt, McKinney, Raybould, Vargas, Walz, Wishart

Excused, not voting (1)

Wayne

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The first-year Republican governor is expected to sign the bill into law early next week. When he does, because of an emergency clause attached to it, the provisions of LB574 related to abortion will become law a day later, while the ban on gender-affirming surgeries will go into effect on Oct. 1.

Shortly after the final vote was taken just after 4 p.m., Omaha Sen. Kathleen Kauth, who sponsored the measure banning gender-affirming surgeries for individuals under 19, said she was happy with the outcome, which she said came at the end of four difficult months.

“It’s an important bill that we got done,” she said. “We want to protect kids.”

Friday — Day 81 of the 90-day session — was marked once again by intense debate both inside and outside the legislative chamber, illustrating the polarization that has gripped the Legislature and state at large over both issues.

Crowds of people representing both sides gathered in the Rotunda as 20 additional security officers were called in to keep the peace.

Opponents of the bill waved signs and chanted for most of the afternoon, while supporters huddled in prayer circles, or watched on TVs set up to allow for people to watch a livestream of the debate.

As some handed out T-shirts and bottles of water, Wrenn Jacobson, 29, sat with others making friendship bracelets. Nearby, a mannequin made to look bloody, which Jacobson said represented the outcomes for women and trans individuals if the bill passed, was splayed out on the floor.

“I’m tired of this,” Jacobson said. “They’re not listening, they’re using their own religion as a basis to do whatever they want, even as we beg them to stop and other Christians tell them it’s wrong.”

Jacobson called the “escalation of attacks against trans people” terrifying, and said opponents of the bill were there to stand up for those individuals.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before in my life,” Jacobson said. “I’ve never heard people chanting for hours on end like they did Tuesday, like they will today against this bill. People are begging and pleading for this to stop.”

Julie Sheldon, who said she gave birth to her children while she was still a teenager, said she backed the effort to stop children from making “life-altering decisions” that couldn’t be reversed.

“I think we need to protect children from long-term harm,” said Sheldon, 45. “We put restrictions on drinking, on marriage, on joining the military, and this shouldn’t be any different.

“I don’t agree with the lifestyle, but the misnomer is that this bill is about hate toward trans people when it is not,” she added. “It’s about protecting children.”

Inside the chamber, Jacobson and Sheldon’s sentiments were being echoed by senators as tensions remained high, eventually spilling over into a protest that briefly stopped the proceedings.

At about the halfway point of Friday’s debate, as Kauth was speaking, one person began shouting from the north balcony, where opponents were seated. Moments later, two others began throwing pieces of cloth dyed red onto lawmakers below.

Speaker John Arch called for the Legislature to stand at ease as security removed and arrested the women. A total of six people were arrested and four were transported to the Lancaster County Jail, including people on either side of the debate.

Kauth later said the incident was “a good representation” of what she described as the hate that had been directed toward her and other supporters.

Proponents said LB574 will stop minors from making irreversible changes to their bodies, and responded — sometimes forcefully — to accusations from supporters that the bill would legislate hate in Nebraska.

“You can spin this any way you want, you can frame it any way you want, I’ve heard words like hateful, anti-trans,” said Sen. Tom Briese of Albion. “That’s baloney. At the end of the day, LB574 is about protecting innocent kids.”

Lincoln Sen. Carolyn Bosn said a narrative had been built that supporters of the bill hate transgender youth — something she said was categorically not true.

“This bill isn’t about being unsupportive of transgender children,” said Bosn, who was appointed to the Legislature a little more than a month ago. “It’s about preventing irreversible changes to their bodies until they’re adults.”

Senators who opposed the bill labeled it an attack on a vulnerable minority. They also said medical experts, the business community, and a majority of Nebraskans didn’t want their Legislature embroiled in the same kinds of culture wars seen in other states.

Omaha Sen. John Fredrickson said LB574 was not sound public policy, but rather a measure “to capitalize on emotion.”

And Sen. Wendy DeBoer of Bennington said the bending of the rules to get the amended version of LB574 across the finish line will have an indelible impact on the Legislature moving forward.

“The wounds from this process, from this bill, are not going to go away quickly,” DeBoer said. “Not for the people whose lives are affected, and not for any of us.”

An amendment to the bill, brought to the floor by Sen. Ben Hansen of Blair last week, orders the state’s chief medical officer to develop regulations for when minors can be prescribed puberty blockers or hormone therapy — something several senators say could result in a total ban on those treatments.

It also included a ban on abortions after 12 weeks gestational age, which is marked from a woman’s last period. That effectively creates a ban on abortions after about 10 weeks after fertilization, which is not as restrictive as a six-week ban (LB626) that fell one vote short of advancing in April.

1,200 doctors, nurses and other health care providers were also wrong about Covid-19

On Friday, hours before debate on LB574 began, opponents of the bill circulated a letter signed by more than 1,200 doctors, nurses and other health care providers that blasted the bill as “a direct attack on the medical community” in Nebraska.

“The original bill was egregious enough; a blatant attack on the rights of parents and their children to make health care decisions in consultation with their health care providers,” the letter states.

“The addition of an ill-informed 12-week abortion ban with no exceptions for fetal anomalies and loopholes that will lead to criminal penalties for physicians who provide standard-of-care medicine is completely unacceptable,” it continued.

Lincoln Sen. Danielle Conrad, referring to the letter, said the emergency clause attached to the bill meant hospitals and health clinics would have little time to assess what is and isn’t permissible under the new law, potentially resulting in negative outcomes for some patients.

As time for debate was winding down, others raised concerns about how the bill would work once it became law.

Sen. George Dungan of Lincoln questioned whether the Legislature could delegate away authority to create medical regulations to the executive branch, and Omaha Sen. John Cavanaugh reiterated that the bill likely violates the state constitution’s single-subject rule.

But with both sides entrenched in their positions, the outcome reflected that of previous votes — 33-15. Sen. Julie Slama of Dunbar, who was absent during debate, arrived about 15 minutes before the vote appearing visibly sick. She gave LB574 the 33rd vote it needed to break a filibuster.

Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne, who did not support the bill earlier this week, was absent from Friday’s debate.

Following the vote, the Nebraska Catholic Conference, Nebraska Family Alliance and Pillen all celebrated the outcome.

“Today’s vote is a victory for truth, common sense, and the protection of vulnerable children and a strike against the extreme obstruction tactics of opposing senators,” said Nate Grasz, policy director for the Nebraska Family Alliance.

Pillen said the bill protects “pre-born boys and girls, and it includes children struggling with their gender identity.”

“These kids deserve the opportunity to grow and explore who they are and want to be, and they can do so without making irreversible decisions that should be made when they are fully grown,” he said.

Several opposing groups, including OutNebraska, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Nebraska, the Nebraska Democratic Party and the ACLU of Nebraska, said senators had ignored the pleas of parents, doctors and others in voting for LB574.

“They have thrown away the session for nothing,” said Aryn Huck of OutNebraska. “Parents are writing to us asking what to do next, worried they may have to uproot their entire lives because of this bill.”

Andi Curry Grubb, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Nebraska, said the abortion restrictions amounted to a ban “plain and simple.”

“Banning abortion after 12 weeks denies a person the fundamental right to control their own body and health care decisions,” Curry Grubb said. “The goal of the abortion ban and the gender-affirming care ban, as with all bans, is to stop people from accessing essential health care and to take away people’s power over their own bodies, lives and futures.”

Omaha Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh, who has filibustered legislation on the floor for weeks to delay passage of LB574, said she planned to continue the fight against the bill even into next year.

“Until the end of the 108th Legislature, I’ll be filibustering,” she said.

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