LINCOLN, Neb. – “No bill shall contain more than one subject.” That language from the Nebraska State Constitution is at the heart of a new lawsuit that is challenging Nebraska’s new abortion ban and new restrictions on gender-related care for transgender youth.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and ACLU of Nebraska are representing Planned Parenthood of the Heartland (PPH) and Dr. Sarah Traxler in the case. Traxler is the chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood North Central States and a physician who provides abortion. The lawsuit was filed in a state trial court in Lancaster County this morning.
The groups are seeking a court order blocking enforcement of the new restrictions, which were combined in a bill called LB 574, and declaring them unconstitutional on the basis that they pertain to two distinct subjects. Governor Jim Pillen signed LB 574 into law last week. In addition to its request for a permanent injunction, the lawsuit also asks for preliminary injunctive relief to block enforcement of the restrictions while litigation is pending.
Today’s filing follows a hurried legislative effort to enact new limits on abortion access and gender-related care. After a failed attempt to pass a near-total abortion ban earlier this year, Sen. Ben Hansen introduced an abortion ban amendment to a proposed ban on gender-related care for trans youth. The amendment banned abortion care just 12 weeks after a patient’s last period. Just under three weeks later, senators passed the amended bill through its final round of debate, disregarding hundreds of Nebraskans who had packed the Capitol rotunda to oppose the bans and a cosigned letter from more than 1,000 Nebraska medical professionals warning that the bill would put patients’ lives at risk.
The abortion restrictions, which took effect May 23, are already impacting patient care. Planned Parenthood is currently attempting to help patients impacted by the new ban find care in nearby states. If past numbers hold steady, more than 200 patients each year will be impacted by the ban, forced to either leave the state for abortion care or to carry a pregnancy to term against their will and potentially against their doctors’ best medical judgment.
The lawsuit says the state constitution’s single subject requirement is a key element of Nebraska’s lawmaking process that, taken with other requirements, promotes careful legislative consideration and ensures that legislators remain accountable for their votes.
Ruth Richardson, CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States, made this statement on the litigation:
“Nebraskans are already being harmed under this dangerous abortion ban that was pushed through the Legislature using unprecedented tactics,” Richardson said. “We are already having to inform patients that they will be unable to get the critical health care they need in Nebraska, and we only expect to see that number grow. We will do everything in our power to restore what should be a fundamental right to bodily autonomy. Nebraskans deserve the right to make private health care decisions that are best for them, their families, and their futures—not politicians, who now have more control over our bodies than we do. And we will not stop until Nebraskans have that right today and for generations to come.”
Mindy Rush Chipman, ACLU of Nebraska interim executive director, made this statement on the litigation:
“Although both components of LB 574 took away Nebraskans’ freedoms, ultimately we are talking about two entirely unrelated subjects: gender-related care for trans youth and abortion access,” Rush Chipman said. “We believe the combination of those bans violated the clear text of our state’s constitution. And the end result of senators’ failure to adhere to the single subject requirement was a rushed process that circumvented critical legislative guardrails. The bottom line is that senators do not get to pick and choose which constitutional requirements they will follow when making laws. We look forward to making our case as litigation progresses.”
The Nebraska Attorney General’s Office will have 30 days to respond to the lawsuit after being served. The judge hearing the case may take action on the request for a preliminary injunction at any point.