Republican state legislators in Nebraska rammed through a contentious bill restricting abortion and transgender healthcare last week with the help of a sick colleague who had just gotten out of hospital.
Julie Slama, a state GOP senator, confirmed on Friday that she had been receiving treatment for hyperemesis gravidarium, a serious complication of pregnancy, but made it to the statehouse in time to cast a decisive vote.
Earlier that day, Nebraska Examiner reporter Paul Hammel had posted a picture of her looking “clearly ill” as colleagues from both sides of the debate stood around her to shield her from TV cameras.
According to Hammel, Ms Slama cast the crucial 33rd vote that allowed the bill to overcome a months-long filibuster by progressive senators that had brought Nebraska’s unicameral legislature practically to a standstill.
The bill, signed into law by governor Jim Pillen on Monday, bans abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy, starting immediately, and all gender transition healthcare for trans people under the age of 19, starting in October.
PS: Many reached out upon seeing this photo by @PaulHammelNE . Do I like that it’s out there? No. But sometimes in gov’t, private battles end up public. I shared to address questions about my health, but also to give my colleagues credit for their kindness, esp. @senatormachaela
— Senator Julie Slama (@SenatorSlama) May 20, 2023
“I was hospitalised today with hyperemesis gravidarum,” Ms Slama tweeted on Friday evening.
“Made it back in time to vote, and on the most divisive bill of the entire session.
“Everyone put their differences aside and joined in a wall to keep my illness from the cameras. ‘Gratitude’ doesn’t even begin to cover it,” she said.
In another tweet on Saturday morning, she said: “Do I like that [the photo] is out there? No. But sometimes in government, private battles end up public. I shared to address questions about my health, but also to give my colleagues credit for their kindness, especially Machaela Cavanaugh.”
That last name was notable because Ms Cavanaugh, along with her progressive colleague Megan Hunt, has been one of the public faces of the 12-week filibuster that had blocked almost all legislation in this session so far.
Ms Cavanaugh has described the trans healthcare ban as a stepping stone to “genocide”, telling The Independent earlier this month that it was aimed at “exterminating ‘transgender’ from existence”.
Nevertheless, she was among the senators who stood in front of Ms Slama to block her from view, and later tweeted at Hammel to “delete this please”.
I know, you are a strong person. But also sometimes private can and should be private. Be well.
— Senator Machaela Cavanaugh (@senatormachaela) May 20, 2023
Another Republican senator, Lou Ann Linehan, had complained that she had to miss her grandson’s preschool graduation ceremony because of the filibuster and the prolonged debate it created.
Ms Hunt, who has a trans child, shot back: “If you want to see your grandson graduate from preschool, you should do that. Instead, you are here to drag out this session because you won’t come off this bill that hurts my son. You hate him more than you love your own family.”
Hammel defended his decision to tweet the photo, saying: “No more public place than floor of [the] Nebraska legislature.”