Nebraska Legislature passes abortion, gender-affirming surgery bans

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – The Let Them Grow Act, which includes a 12-week abortion ban, is heading to Gov. Jim Pillen’s desk.

After two hours of debate on Friday, senators voted 33-15 to pass Legislative Bill 574, which would ban gender-affirming procedures for minors.

As opponents of LB 574 gathered in the Capitol Rotunda, tension took over the floor.

Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh, the lawmaker who grinded the body’s work to a halt over the bill, spent more than two minutes repeating the chant: “Trans people belong here. We need trans people. We love trans people.”

“You matter, and I am fighting for you,” Cavanaugh said. “And I will not stop. I will not stop today, I will not stop tomorrow.”

Senators supporting the bill said that they have been accused of hate but that all they are trying to do is protect the lives of children.

“The reason we brought this bill is because we love kids,” Sen. Kathleen Kauth said. “We want to see them grow and be happy, healthy adults.”

The bill will now head to Pillen, who is expected to sign it into law.

All children deserve a chance to grow and live happy, fruitful lives,” Pillen said in a statement after the bill passed. “This includes 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.” 

SEE ALSO: Protesters removed after outbursts in Nebraska Legislature chamber

And thanks to an amendment from Sen. Ben Hansen, the measure now includes a 12-week abortion ban.  That amendment was added to the bill on Tuesday.

Hansen filed the amendment after the Nebraska Heartbeat Act, which would have banned abortions at around six weeks, was killed in April.

The bill has been a topic of controversy throughout the session.

Several protesters were arrested Friday after yelling at senators and throwing pads and tampons from the balcony of the legislative chamber.

The Nebraska State Patrol cleared the balconies after the outbursts.

And senators on both sides discussed the way this bill has been handled by both lawmakers and protesters.

“I see what’s happening here and across the country and I sometimes ask, ‘Is there an America left?” said Sen. Wendy DeBoer. “Sen. Blood says democracy is messy. It’s been messy a lot lately.”

Sen. Mike McDonnell said senators have a responsibility to the people who have elected them to behave with decorum.

“We also have a responsibility to this institution,” McDonnell said. “This isn’t easy. This isn’t supposed to be easy.”

Andi Curry Grub, executive director of Planned Parenthood North Central States, said the bill “will create a devastating new reality in Nebraska.”

“Banning abortion after 12 weeks denies a person the fundamental right to control their own body and health care decisions,” she said in a statement. “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.”

If Pillen signs the bill into law, the bans will go into effect immediately.

But one protester said that’s not the end of the story.

“Shame on the senators that voted in support of the bill and it’s not over,” Emily Schuleneerg said. “We’re going to keep fighting.”

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