Mon, 05 Jun 2023

(CN) - Amid vehement protests, Nebraska's legislature on Friday passed a controversial bill that combines a ban on gender-affirming care for transgender minors and a ban on abortions after 12-weeks of pregnancy.

Six people were arrested as the bill was debated on Friday, observers in the chamber's balcony began yelling, and two threw objects onto the floor. The individuals arrested were variously accused of obstructing a government operation, obstructing a peace officer disturbing the peace, resisting arrest, and trespassing disobeying a lawful order.

Nevertheless, the bill, referred to as the "Let Them Grow Act." passed with a 33-15 vote. The measure also includes the "Preborn Child Protection Act, which was tacked on to the gender-affirming care ban Tuesday following a contentious debate at the state Capitol.

The Friday passage officially resurrects abortion restrictions thought dead a few weeks ago, shortening the state's current 20-week abortion ban to a 12-week ban. While LB 574 provides limited exceptions for pregnancies from incest, sexual assault and medical complications, it does not provide exceptions for fetal anomalies or untreatable conditions that inevitably lead to infant death.

Meanwhile, the bill also prohibits doctors from providing gender-affirming surgeries to minors in the state. The bill blocks such health care procedures by withholding state funding to entities, organizations and individuals that provide them, and promises to revoke medical licenses and allow minors and their guardians to sue doctors that violate the bill's provisions.

The bill also allows Nebraska's chief medical officer to regulate non-surgical gender-affirming treatments for minors, including hormone therapy and puberty blockers - both of which are only allowed if patients present "long-lasting and intense pattern of gender non-conformity or gender dysphoria" that began or worsened at the onset of puberty.

Other bill requirements include a minimum number of therapy hours focused on gender identity and a waiting time between when a doctor receives patient consent and prescribes such therapies. The bill provides some exceptions for people who are currently receiving gender-affirming therapies.

Passed with an emergency clause, the bill is set to take effect immediately once the governor signs it. Nebraska's Republican Governor Jim Pillen applauded its passage on Friday afternoon.

"All children deserve a chance to grow and live happy, fruitful lives. This includes preborn boys and girls, and it includes children struggling with their gender identity," said Pillen in a statement. "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."

After the Nebraska legislature voted to attach the 12-week abortion ban on Tuesday, critics accused state senators of using the last few weeks of the legislative session "to impose their personal beliefs on everyone else."

"They are disregarding what constituents want, ignoring medical experts and jeopardizing Nebraskans' health," said American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska's interim director Mindy Rush in a statement. "Now is the time for all Nebraskans who believe in freedom to contact their senators and urge them to oppose these cruel bans."

According to the Omaha-based television news station KETV, most of those who supported the bill exited the Capitol through a secure entrance and declined to comment as they left.

Source: Courthouse News Service

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