As promised, the American Civil Liberties Union is suing to block the Nebraska Legislature’s controversial measure combining a 12-week abortion ban with restrictions on gender-affirming care for minors.
The lawsuit, filed in state court by the ACLU on behalf of Planned Parenthood and one of its doctors who performs abortions in Nebraska, argues that the law violates a state constitutional requirement that legislative bills stick to a single subject.
The lawsuit is also asking for an injunction to block enforcement of the trans health and abortion restrictions until the court case is decided.
The original bill dealt strictly gendering-affirming care, but added late in the passage process was an immediate ban on abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for rape, incest and to save the life of the mother.
The ban was shoehorned in as an amendment after a separate bill to ban abortion at about six weeks failed to overcome a filibuster.
ACLU Nebraska Executive Director Mindy Rush Chipman says the ACLU believes the combination of the bans violated the clear text of the state’s constitution,” adding that the bottom line is that senators do not get to pick and choose which constitutional requirements they will follow when making laws.”
The new law prevents people under 19 from receiving gender-confirming surgery and restricts the use of hormone treatments and puberty blockers in minors when those restrictions go into effect Oct. 1.
It will put the state’s chief medical officer – a politically appointed post currently held by an ear, nose and throat doctor – in charge of setting the rules for hormone therapies for those already getting such treatments and those who demonstrate a “long-lasting and intense pattern of gender nonconformity or gender dysphoria.”
The proposal restricting gender-affirming care was the flashpoint of an epic filibuster brought against virtually every measure on the floor in an attempt to run out the clock on the bill, sending leadership scrambling to prioritize which bills to push through.
Lawmakers opposed to the hybrid bill had warned that it would face a lawsuit if passed. The ACLU’s lawsuit argues that the Legislature wrongly logrolled two distinct, unrelated subjects into one combined bill.
The law says “the single-subject rule prevents logrolling, namely, the passage of legislation that, if standing alone, could not muster the necessary votes for enactment.
The single-subject rule also promotes transparency in the legislative process and accountability by lawmakers.
When a bill contains more than one subject, it is impossible to know whether the lawmaker’s vote signaled support for, or opposition to, the entire bill, or just some of it.”
Omaha Senator Kathleen Kauth, a freshman lawmaker who introduced the trans health restriction bill that later morphed into the hybrid bill, says she’s confident it will survive legal scrutiny.
“I mean, it’s called the ‘Let Them Grow Act,’” she says of her original bill. “I think restricting abortion is very much in that same subject.”
Governor Jim Pillen declined to comment, citing his office’s policy of not commenting on pending litigation.