Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and its medical director, Dr. Sarah Traxler, are appealing the dismissal of their lawsuit challenging a Nebraska law that bans most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy and restricts gender-affirming care for transgender people under age 19.
They argue that the law violates the Nebraska constitution, which stipulates that any piece of legislation should deal with one subject only. Attorney General Mike Hilgers had countered that the legislation complied with the constitution because the restrictions on abortion and transition procedures both deal with health care. Lancaster County District Court Judge Lori Maret agreed with Hilgers and dismissed the suit August 11. Lancaster County includes Lincoln, the state capital.
The Planned Parenthood group and Traxler filed a notice of appeal Friday with the Nebraska Supreme Court. They are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, its Nebraska affiliate, and Powers Law.
The trans care restrictions had been subject to a filibuster led by Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh, who vowed to block every bill pending in Nebraska’s one-chamber, officially nonpartisan legislature in order to keep the anti-trans measure from passing. However, her fellow lawmakers eventually overcame that filibuster. The legislature folded the 12-week abortion ban into the anti-trans bill, Legislative Bill 574, and passed the combined measure in May. Republican Gov. Jim Pillen signed it into law within days. The abortion ban took effect immediately, and the trans care regulations go into effect October 1.
The ban on gender-affirming care has taken a different form from the one originally introduced, but opponents say it could still do great harm. The original bill would have banned puberty blockers, hormone treatment, and gender-confirmation surgery for anyone under 19 for the purpose of transition, although genital surgery is almost never performed on minors. The new legislation bans only surgery, both genital and otherwise, but allows Nebraska’s chief medical officer to regulate the use of puberty blockers and hormones.
That officer, Timothy Tesmer, was appointed by Pillen and has said he opposes all gender-affirming procedures for minors, so putting the power in his hands would likely result in a policy as restrictive as the one proposed in the first version of LB 574, possibly more so, according to opponents. Those already receiving nonsurgical care are exempt from new regulations.
“We will never stop fighting for the reproductive freedom, bodily autonomy, and health of our Nebraska communities. We are doubling down on that commitment with this appeal,” Ruth Richardson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States, which includes Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said in a press release. “Planned Parenthood is dedicated to continuing to provide abortion care to the patients we can legally see within the 12-week limit and will continue to connect other patients in Nebraska with the resources they need to get to the essential care they so desperately need, wherever they may be. Every person deserves the freedom to control their body, health, and future — and that right shouldn’t be determined by your zip code.”
“We are hopeful that the Nebraska Supreme Court honors the language in our state’s constitution that ‘no bill shall contain more than one subject,’” added Mindy Rush Chipman, ACLU of Nebraska executive director. “We will continue to advocate for Nebraskans’ rights and do all we can to block both the abortion ban and the restriction on gender-affirming care for trans youth.”