Nebraska Legislature: Stage set for debate double-header

Bill to ban gender-affirming care set for final reading Tuesday with newly attached amendment prohibiting abortion at 12 weeks
Debate over LB574 and the abortion amendment added to the bill are set to be the focus on Tuesday in Lincoln.
Published: May. 15, 2023 at 3:28 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Nebraska state senators don’t return to work until Tuesday, but when they do, they’ll be taking up two controversial bills at the same time.

The Speaker of the Legislature has said that debate over banning gender-affirming surgeries in minors will take place at the end of the day Tuesday, maybe around 7 p.m.

It’s the final reading of LB574.

Another abortion ban has been added as an amendment to that bill: AM1658, which proponents call the “Preborn Child Protection Act.”

Both sides are gearing up for a long night of debate.

Opponents have categorized the amendment as a political maneuver to circumvent the rules after a six-week ban failed by one vote in the unicameral two weeks ago. Remember: Last month, a six-week ban failed to advance in the unicameral by one vote.

AM1658 is described as a 12-week abortion ban, but opponents of the bill argue it’s more like a 10-week ban as the new bill says gestational age is calculated from the first day of the last period, not post-fertilization.

In Nebraska, there were 2,360 abortions in 2021, according to the latest available data from the state; 89% of those happened at 12 weeks or earlier.

Nate Grasz is with Nebraska Family Alliance. After being disappointed with the six-week abortion ban failing, he believes this combined bill could help salvage the session for conservatives.

“At the end of the day, we are not comfortable with our state abortion laws staying where it’s at and allowing elective abortions through 20 weeks of pregnancy,” he said. “We believe anything we can do to continue to provide better and stronger protections to women and unborn children from abortion is a good thing.”

Opponents worry that this bull does nothing for women who discover there’s a fetal anomaly and no chance the child would survive.

“If the ban were to go through, I would not have been able to make that choice. We did not find out until 13 weeks that there was something wrong. I had an ultrasound at eight weeks, and everything was fine.”

Debate over a combined abortion-trans-rights bill is set to continue Tuesday in Lincoln.

Supporters on both sides are expected to be in force at the capitol Tuesday night, putting pressure on lawmakers to side with them. For some anti-abortion groups, this combined is a way to salvage what has so far been a disappointing session.

The abortion bill is tied to a bill that would ban a rare procedure in Nebraska: gender-affirming surgery for minors.

“Children who are struggling with gender dysphoria need compassion care and time. They don’t need harmful and permanent surgery that removes healthy body parts,” Grasz said.

Opponents worry that what appears to be a compromise or olive branch is just another way of working towards a total ban on hormone therapies and gender blockers — or decisions between a doctor and patient.

“It gives someone who is not elected and does not practice gender-affirming care to make decisions without regard to best practices of medical community as set forward by national and world entities,” said Aryn Huck with OutNebraska.