Busy Legislators! Nebraska Passes 12-Week Abortion Ban and Gender-Affirming Child Care Restrictions

A 12-week abortion ban and limitations on gender-affirming child care were approved by the Nebraska Legislature on Friday. The vote was so divisive that members from opposing parties have indicated they may not be able to cooperate in the future.

Just enough votes were obtained by conservative members to halt a filibuster and pass a bill including both provisions. Republican Governor Jim Pillen has vowed to sign the legislation into law after championing it and meeting with several politicians to ensure support.

Since lawmakers on Tuesday advanced by a single vote the hybrid proposal that ties together limitations that Republicans around the United States have been demanding, the atmosphere in the Nebraska Capitol has been tumultuous. In the midst of raucous protests and a barrage of insults and threats of retaliation from Nebraska's lawmakers, the public is outraged. The restriction in Nebraska was passed in the same week that North Carolina's governor overrode a veto and upheld a 12-week ban on abortion. 

The discussion on Friday was momentarily halted when demonstrators in a balcony above the chamber jumped up, screamed at conservative politicians, and threw what appeared to be bloody tampons to the ground. At least one person was detained by security, who also cleared the balconies. Chants of "Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!" could be heard emanating from outside the chamber as MPs started voting.

Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a universal right to abortion was overturned by the US Supreme Court last year, Nebraska had not implemented a new abortion restriction. At this time, the state forbids abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Rape, incest, and situations where the mother's life is in danger are exempt from the 12-week restriction.

The legislation would also bar transgender people under the age of 18 from having any surgery that would confirm their gender. Puberty blockers and hormone therapy would be governed by the state's chief medical officer, a political appointment who is now an ear, nose, and throat physician. For juveniles who were already receiving therapy before the ban was put into effect, there would be limited exceptions.

At least 17 states have passed legislation limiting or outlawing the provision of gender-affirming medical care to children, and the governors of Texas and Missouri are considering similar legislation. Such limitations, according to medical organizations and advocates, are further marginalizing transgender youngsters and endangering their health.

Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh of Omaha led the charge to filibuster almost every bill this session, even those she supported, in opposition to the limitations on gender-affirming healthcare. She blasted conservatives for supporting the hybrid plan and sounded the alarm that residents, medical professionals, and businesses will flee the state as a result.

Early in March, Cavanaugh vowed to "burn the session to the ground over this bill," and she and a small group of progressive allies did just that. The Legislature's work was slowed down, and the leadership was forced to make last-minute decisions about which bills to forward after they introduced hundreds of amendments and motions to stall every item at every stage of debate.

Sen. Julie Slama, who implied that conservatives were supporting the restrictions on gender-affirming care to retaliate against Cavanaugh after lawmakers combined the abortion restrictions with the transgender health measure, battled with Cavanaugh. Slama pointed out that the limits initially lacked the 33 votes necessary to hold onto their status.

However, Machaela Cavanaugh later ranted because she was ecstatic that the national media was present to give her more exposure, according to Slama. Thus, we now have 33 votes.

With only a few days left in the session, Cavanaugh said that it would "cost" conservatives for Congress to enact legislation.

"I will occupy the entire time. To ensure that the speaker has to choose what is actually scheduled in these next few days, she said, "every single, every minute of it.

Early this month, conservative members of the one-house, ostensibly neutral Legislature declared that they will change the trans health measure to include the abortion prohibitions. After conservatives failed to pass a bill that would have outlawed abortion once heart activity could be detected—typically around six weeks into pregnancy, before many women are aware that they are pregnant—that unusual action was taken.

According to legislative regulations, a bill that is unable to end a filibuster must be put on hold until the following year. So when conservatives revealed a plan for a 12-week ban, detractors were taken aback. Progressive legislators claim it was a shady manoeuvre to force a prohibition through after the matter had already been defeated. The prohibition, according to conservatives, is a compromise.

As soon as the governor approves the measure, it will go into effect since it has an emergency clause.

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