Nebraska Bans Abortion at 12 Weeks and Sex-Change Surgery for Minors

New bill, signed into law on Monday, also regulates other drugs used in purported gender-transition therapies for minors.

Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen on May 22 signed into law a 12-week abortion ban and a ban on transgender surgery on minors.
Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen on May 22 signed into law a 12-week abortion ban and a ban on transgender surgery on minors. (photo: Courtesy of the Office of the Governor of Nebraska)

Nebraska will now ban abortion 12 weeks into pregnancy and ban gender-altering surgery for minors. A new bill, signed into law on Monday, also regulates other drugs used in purported gender-transition therapies for minors.

“It’s about protecting our kids and saving babies. Pure and simple,” Republican Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen said Monday, The Associated Press reported. The governor said the legislation sends the message that “abortion is unthinkable in Nebraska” and the state’s culture “embraces life and love.” The provision barring gender-altering surgery, he said, “lets our kids be kids” while they grow up, including “the teenager who may be trying to figure out who they are.”

More than 30 of Nebraska’s 49 senators joined the governor for the signing of the Let Them Grow Act. The bill passed 33-15 along party lines in the unicameral Legislature, which only has a Senate.

The new abortion ban replaces the previous 20-week abortion ban. The ban exempts abortions of unborn children conceived in rape and incest as well as cases of medical emergencies. It also specifically exempts ectopic pregnancies.

“Every human being has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” said state Sen. Joni Albrecht. “I look forward to the day when every child is protected from conception from elective abortions in the state of Nebraska.”

The abortion ban takes effect immediately. In April, the state Senate failed to pass a six-week abortion ban by only one vote.

The new law also bans purported gender-altering surgery for patients under age 19, the age of legal majority in Nebraska. Proponents present the surgeries, also known as sex-change operations, as gender-confirmation surgery. 

The bill requires the state medical officer to create regulations for cross-sex hormones and puberty-blocking drugs for minors, which proponents call gender-affirming care. The regulations could include a full ban, according to the Nebraska Examiner. This part of the legislation will take effect Oct. 1.

State Sen. Kathleen Kauth said the legislation is “all about protecting children. It was an honor to be able to use it to also protect preborn children.”

“Every option is on the table to undo these regressive measures, including seeking justice through the courts,” said Mindy Rush Chipman, interim executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska, in a Monday statement. Chipman charged that the bans will cause “significant harm.”

Lawmakers opposed to the abortion ban and transgender legal reforms filibustered all proposed legislation for months. They fell one vote short of the 17 votes needed to halt the advance of the bill.

On Friday hundreds of opponents of the legislation, including self-identified transgender youth, rallied at the Cornhusker State Capitol, and some filled the capitol rotunda.

Supporters of the legislation included the Nebraska Catholic Conference. Marion Miner, the conference’s associate director of Pro-Life and Family Policy, argued for the legislation in Feb. 8 testimony to the Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee.

“A healthy culture promotes the integrity of persons, in part by cultivating manifestations of sex differences that correspond with biological realities. It supports gender expressions that reveal and communicate the reality of our sexual natures. A misguided concept of gender, on the other hand, denies, conceals, and distorts the realities of our nature and hinders human flourishing.

“Most alarmingly, it exposes emotionally vulnerable children to dangerous and sometimes irreversible wounding of their own bodies, permanently engaging in battle against what will be the body’s lifelong struggle to heal itself.

“As theories of sex and gender inconsistent with nature and the natural moral law are increasingly prevalent in popular culture, it is essential for the law to protect children while they develop and mature physiologically, emotionally, and spiritually,” said Miner, who cited several of Pope Francis’ statements against gender ideology.

Added Miner, Christian charity should be extended to those who feel “incongruence between their biological sex and the gender with which they identify” and who often suffer “feelings of anxiety and of being unaccepted.”

He added: “Love, compassion and respect for such persons, who are our brothers and sisters, along with an affirmation of their equal dignity and worth, is due to them.”

Register staff contributed to the editing.