Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen signed a new law Monday, banning abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy and restricting gender-affirming medical care for anyone under the age of 19. Photo courtesy of Nebraska governor's office
May 22 (UPI) -- Following weeks of contentious debate, Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen on Monday signed a new law that bans abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy and restricts gender-affirming medical care for anyone younger than 19.
The Republican governor signed Legislative Bill 574, which includes the Let them Grow Act and the Reborn Child Protection Act, in a ceremony with 25 state lawmakers who supported the bill. The new law includes an emergency clause that allows the abortion ban to begin immediately. Restrictions on gender-affirming care will not go into effect until Oct. 1.
"Today is an extraordinary historic day for the state of Nebraska," Pillen said Monday after signing the bill. "It's a day where it's really simple. We're standing up to protect our kids so that our state has a bigger and brighter future."
The bill was approved by a vote of 33 to 15 on Friday, as protesters shouted from the chamber's balcony. State lawmakers were forced to go into recess as security cleared the public. Six people were arrested during protests after the vote.
Monday's new law bans abortions after 12 weeks gestational age. Nebraska law had previously banned abortions after 20 weeks gestation. The new law includes exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.
"Although LB 626 was unable to pass this year, together we're able to better protect the woman and children by successfully moving Nebraska's 20-week law down to 12 weeks," State Sen. Joni Albrecht said. "Keeping everything from the original bill except the heartbeat protection," as she referred to the six-week ban that failed earlier this year.
Opponents have frequently referred to the proposal as a 10-week abortion ban, because it is measured by gestational age based on the woman's last menstrual period and not fertilization.
Planned Parenthood blasted the law, saying they will continue to do what they can to help their patients.
"We are devastated about the cruel and harmful bans signed into law today," said Ruth Richardson, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood North Central States.
"We will do everything we can to help patients in Nebraska. We will continue offering abortion as allowed in the new law, and we will help patients get connected to the help they need to get to appointments out of state," Richardson added. "We are working every day to provide people the health care they need."
Nebraska's new law also bans gender-affirming surgeries for anyone younger than 19 and will place restrictions, to be determined by Nebraska's chief medical examiner, on puberty-blockers and hormone therapy.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska indicated LB 574 is open to a lawsuit and is looking into whether the law violates the state's constitution, which says a bill can only cover one topic.
"Every option is on the table to undo these regressive measures, including seeking justice through the courts," interim Executive Director Mindy Rush Chipman said in a statement.
"We will not stop working toward a future that safeguards all Nebraskans' rights, including the rights of transgender youth, their families and people in need of reproductive health care."
Pillen said the new law is needed to protect children from being "duped" into thinking gender-affirming care is the only way for them to be happy.
"This bill is just the start," Pillen countered. "We have a lot more work to do in the state to make sure we're protecting unborn children, supporting mothers, and letting our children grow and thrive."