At least six protesters were arrested at the Nebraska Capitol Friday as state lawmakers approved a 12-week abortion ban and restrictions on gender-affirming care for those under the age of 19.
Debate over the controversial bill has been so intense that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said that they may no longer be able to work together in the future.
A single bill including both measures was finally passed after conservative legislators called in a visibly sick colleague so they would have enough votes to end a filibuster and get the bill through.
Friday’s heated debate was briefly halted when protesters in a chamber balcony hurled obscenities at conservative lawmakers and threw what appeared to be bloody tampons onto the floor.
Nebraska State Police arrested at least six of the demonstrators.
Later, as lawmakers began voting, hundreds of protesters who’d packed in the Capitol rotunda chanted “Shame!” right outside of the chamber doors.
The bill passed by a single vote.
Omaha state Sen. Megan Hunt, who revealed in March that her teenage son is transgender, said Friday that she now plans to leave the state.
Following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe. v. Wade, which had federally protected abortions since 1973, 14 conservative states have imposed new restrictions on abortions —- including North Carolina, where its own 12-work abortion ban was passed by legislators this week before it was vetoed.
Nebraska’s 12-week ban includes exceptions for rape, incest and when necessary to save the life of the mother.
Opponents unsuccessfully sought an exception for fatal fetal anomalies and to explicitly protect doctors from criminal charges for performing a contested abortion.
The other measure on the bill would prevent trans individuals under the age of 19 from receiving any gender-confirming surgery and restrict the use of hormone treatments and puberty blockers.
Additionally it puts the state’s politically appointed chief medical officer — who is an ear, nose and throat doctor — in charge of establishing rules for those therapies.
In Nebraska, people younger than 19 are considered minors.
GOP Gov. Jim Pillen, who has supported the bill, has promised to sign it into law when it reaches his desk.
Nebraska’s restrictions on gender-affirming care wouldn’t take effect until Oct. 1, however the abortion ban will take effect as soon as the governor signs it.
Opponents promised to sue to stop both measures.
Sen. Kathleen Kauth, who authored the trans health measure, has repeatedly referred to an increase of children who identify as transgender as “a social contagion,” and insisted the measure was to protect children from doing something they could later regret.
“It does not mean by any stretch of the imagination that we hate them,” she said. “Quite to the contrary: We love them.”
In response to Kauth’s bill, Omaha Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh and other progressives organized a filibuster, introducing amendment after amendment to every bill that made it to the Senate floor, forcing leaders scrambling over which bills to push through first.
On Friday, Cavanaugh vowed to continue her filibuster until the end of this year’s session in early June and even through all of 2024.
“This place is morally bankrupt,” Cavanaugh told her colleagues. “I’m looking forward to 2025 when I no longer have to serve with many of you.”
Conservatives in Nebraska’s officially non-partisan Legislature announced their plan to slip in the abortion restriction measure into the trans health bill as an amendment after a previous abortion ban failed to advance.
The move took opponents off guard, sparking complaints that conservatives essentially created a new bill without public hearing.
They also claim it violates state law that requires amendments to be related to the underlying bill.
With Post wires
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