Nebraska passes 12-week abortion ban, gender-affirming care limits

Nebraska's Republican governor signed a 12-week abortion ban to take effect immediately, and restrictions on gender-affirming care starting Oct. 1.
Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen smiles as he holds a newborn next to his granddaughters.
Posted at 6:59 PM, May 22, 2023

Nebraska is the latest state to pass a bill involving two recent hot-button political topics: Abortion and gender-affirming care.

The state's Republican Gov. Jim Pillen signed a bill into law Monday that immediately bans most abortions after 12 weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest and medical emergencies. It also restricts gender-affirming care for those under 19 years old starting Oct. 1. The state's chief medical officer will now decide the rules for treatment, including the use of hormone treatments and puberty blockers.

"It's about protecting our kids and saving babies. Pure and simple," Pillen said.

This is Nebraska's first abortion law since 2010, when it banned the procedure around 20 weeks.

Now it's among at least 20 other states who have some form of an abortion ban, and at least 18 states that have restricted or banned gender-affirming care for minors.

While the topics of abortion and gender-affirming care were separate legislation initially — with a bill to ban abortion after six weeks failing by a single vote last month — more of Nebraska's conservative lawmakers jumped on to support the bill once the two were merged into one. That led it to pass with enough votes Friday to end a 12-week filibuster led by one of the state's 16 Democrats in the legislature.

Opponents of the bill protested last week, resulting in several arrests, and the head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska, Mindy Rush Chipman, promised to look into the law, saying, "This is not over, not by a long shot."

More than 1,200 Nebraska health care professionals signed an open letter calling the bill "a direct attack on the medical community of our state," saying it goes directly against guidelines established by multiple medical associations.

One of the state's lawmakers, Omaha state Sen. Megan Hunt, has a transgender son. She said she now plans to leave the state.

Supporters of the bill, and others like it, say it's designed to shield "innocent life" from making health care decisions they may later regret.

Protesters of Kentucky Senate bill SB150, known as the Transgender Health Bill, cheer on speakers during a rally on the lawn

What really is gender-affirming care?

Gender-affirming health care doesn't have to involve a transgender, non-binary, or gender-diverse patient at all.