LINCOLN, Neb. (OSV News) — Nebraska lawmakers passed a measure May 19 prohibiting abortion at 12 weeks gestation and banning gender-altering surgeries for minors.
The Let Them Grow Act, LB574, overcame a continued filibuster effort by abortion rights and transgender ideology advocates and was sent to the desk of Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen, who was expected to sign it.
The act marks the first restriction on abortion in Nebraska since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer and the most significant step to protect the unborn in the state since 2010 when lawmakers outlawed abortion at 20 weeks. It also represents the first state effort to govern gender-altering procedures for children.
Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, Nebraska, along with Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln and Bishop Joseph G. Hanefeldt of Grand Island issued a joint statement in response to the vote Friday afternoon.
“God made us as male and female, in his image and with an inalienable dignity infused in our being from the moment of our conception. We are entrusted by God with a noble mission to defend innocent life from conception to natural death,” the bishops said.
“The Let Them Grow Act ensures that the futures of hundreds of Nebraska children will be safeguarded each year and legally protected so they may grow and flourish. We’re reminded of our call to help be Christ to our neighbors by accompanying them in times of need.”
Sen. Ben Hansen, who represents Blair, Nebraska, introduced an amendment May 8 after a measure that would protect life at six weeks gestation failed to defeat a filibuster in April.
Following a vote earlier in the week to adopt the amendment, lawmakers on a 33-15 vote adopted the bill Friday with an emergency clause, which makes the law effective the day after the governor signs it.
State law had allowed abortion until 20 weeks gestation. In 2020 and 2021, nearly 300 preborn babies were aborted between 12 and 20 weeks each year, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
The act retains exceptions allowing abortions in cases of rape and incest and where it is deemed medically necessary to save the life of the mother.
LB574 will protect minors from gender-altering surgeries and direct the state to develop rules and regulations for non-surgical interventions such as cross-sex hormones and puberty blockers.
Earlier in the week, Pillen called LB574 an important step in protecting the future. “I applaud the senators who voted for LB574 and stood up for our commonsense, conservative values,” he said. “I am proud to have partnered with conservative senators in this fight and look forward to signing the bill upon final passage.”
In a May 19 statement, Pillen said, “All children deserve a chance to grow and live happy, fruitful lives. This includes pre-born boys and girls, and it includes children struggling with their gender identity. These kids deserve the opportunity to grow and explore who they are and want to be, and they can do so without making irreversible decisions that should be made when they are fully grown.”
In their statement, Nebraska’s bishops thanked Pillen along with the state senators, including Sen. Joni Albrecht, Sen. Kathleen Kauth and Sen. Ben Hansen, who fought for the measure to protect children — born and preborn — from harm.
“Please join us in prayer for the unborn, for mothers facing under-supported pregnancies, for children experiencing gender dysphoria and for their families,” they said. “May all Catholics in Nebraska, by their words and their actions, be a living witness of God’s love and mercy to mothers and families in need.”
Riley Johnson contributes to The Catholic Voice in Omaha, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska.