Senators pass restrictions on abortion, transgender youth care

May 19, 2023, midnight ·

Nebraska State Capitol.JPG
Nebraska State Capitol

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Lincoln, Neb. – The Nebraska Legislature gave final approval to a bill restricting abortion and medical procedures for transgender youth, following months of filibusters, debates, and unprecedented floor behavior.

LB574 received the 33 votes necessary on Friday, meaning the bill will be sent to the desk of Governor Jim Pillen, who said he will sign it.

The bill was passed with an emergency clause meaning it will take effect immediately after he puts pen to paper.

The bill, introduced by Senator Kathleen Kauth, restricts access to gender-affirming care for minors. In addition, a last-minute amendment introduced by Senator Ben Hansen that restricts abortion after around 12 weeks was attached to the bill earlier in the week.

The bill has invoked emotional debate on the floor of the legislature for months was the driving factor behind a weeks-long filibuster from Senator Machaela Cavanaugh.

On the last day of debate, Kauth said the legislation was not about hate or division, but about children.

“We certainly don’t hate anyone. The reason we brought forth this bill is because we love kids. And we want them to be happy and healthy adults,” Kauth said.

Senator Kathleen Kauth during debate on her bill Tuesday (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)
Sen. Kathleen Kauth during debate (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)

But Senator Jen Day, an opponent of the bill, says it will come at the cost of the Nebraska economy.

“We will lose jobs. We will lose businesses. We will lose people even worse than we already are. We will lose billions of dollars. On top of the legal challenges that will come from the passage of this bill,” Day said.

Senator Brad Von Gillern didn’t dispute the claim, but made it clear that wouldn’t impact his vote.

“No matter how many conferences choose to go elsewhere or how many doctors threatened to leave, I will never sacrifice the life of an unborn baby for economics, never,” Von Gillern said.

Protestors in the Rotunda.jpg
Those against LB574 pack the rotunda on May 19, 2023.

During the debate, hundreds, mostly those against LB574, packed the Capitol rotunda. Their chanting and singing could be heard inside the legislative chamber. Following the final vote, the group was heard chanting “shame”.

In addition, roughly halfway through debate, which lasted around two and a half hours, a small group caused a disturbance in the balcony. The group shouted at lawmakers and threw something onto the legislative floor. The balconies where then cleared as the Legislature stood at ease.

But eventually the final vote came.

Governor Pillen is expected to sign the bill, and released the following statement:

"All children deserve a chance to grow and live happy, fruitful lives. 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."

Opponent have vowed to challenge LB574 in court.