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Nevada voter-approved statutes might enshrine pregnant people’s access to abortion, but Attorney General Aaron Ford warned that federal action and future state legislatures could undermined protections.
Ford held a press conference Tuesday following the leaking of a draft opinion showing the Supreme Court of the United States is gearing up to overrule the landmark 1973 case Roe v. Wade.
If made final, the court opinion would create a patchwork of legal abortion access across the country by leaving policymaking to the states, 26 of which are poised to immediately ban the procedure or place severe restrictions on it, according to an analysis from the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-reproductive rights research group.
Though Nevada wouldn’t immediately feel the aftermath if the court does overturn the 49-year-old court case, Ford said people shouldn’t be “lulled into a sense of complacency.”
“A federal ban on abortion could superceed our law,” he said.
Conservative activists and lawmakers have been exploring federal legislation to outlaw abortion if they gain control of Congress and the presidency in 2024.
A 1990 referendum by Nevada voters allows abortions to be performed “within 24 weeks after the commencement of the pregnancy.” It cannot be amended or repealed without a vote of the people.
Though the law couldn’t be swiftly overturned, Ford added “a future governor’s administration or a state legislature hostile to abortion rights could work to find ways to restrict access within the framework that has been approved within the referendum.”
Led by conservative lawmakers, some states have been working to limit access to abortion – such as placing extreme restrictions on medical providers and facilities who offer services, requiring wait periods, or mandating counseling for those seeking abortions.
Candidates running for governor, including Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, attorney Joey Gilbert and former Sen. Dean Heller are all running as anti-abortion rights.
Heller applauded the possibility of overturning Roe, saying he is “committed to supporting pro-life judges and continuing to fight for the sanctity of life and unborn children in Nevada.”
A group of Democratic governors, led by Wisconsin’s Tony Evers and including Nevada’s Steve Sisolak, wrote a letter to congressional leaders Tuesday asking them to pass a federal law protecting abortion access.
“Our collective responsibility to defend access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion, has never been more important,” the letter said.
“Overturning Roe will turn back the clock on reproductive health, and Congress must immediately take action to ensure that our nation does not go backward and that the rights of all Americans to access reproductive healthcare and abortion continue to be protected.”
An OH Predictive Insights’ survey from October of nearly 800 registered voters in Nevada showed 10% believe abortion should be illegal in all cases, 46% believe abortion should be legal in some cases, and 44% believe abortion should be legal in all cases.
The survey also found that 69% of voters consider themselves “pro-choice” while 31% considered themselves “pro-life.”
States, including Florida and Texas, have restricted the timeframe for when a person can receive an abortion.
Thirteen states have “trigger laws” that would automatically ban abortion if Roe is overturned and nine have abortion bans that are currently blocked by court order but could take effect if Roe is overturned, Ford said.
Bans in those states would affect Nevada, he added.
“Once Texas passed its six week abortion bounty ban, we started hearing reports from abortion providers here that people were traveling here so people could receive legal professional and safe medical care,” he said. “What we will not do is punish people coming to Nevada seeking medical care. We will not work against people in the midst of one of the most vulnerable times in their life.”
Ford called the wave of restrictions “extremely concerning.”
“In Missouri earlier this year, a bill was proposed that would have banned abortions in the case of ectopic pregnancies,” he said. “To be clear, ectopic pregnancies are never viable and often fatal for the patient.”
Language around ectopic pregnancies was dropped from the bill following public outcry.
Roe being overturned, Ford said, could affect a wide range of other rights and protections, such as access to birth control, marriage equality, interracial marriage and consensual same-sex activity.
The legal reasoning used in the leaked draft opinion, which was written by Justice Samuel Alito, is that any right not explicitly described in the Constitution or protected at the founding of the country could not be implied by other rights.
In addition to protecting the right to abortion, Ford also called for expanding health care access.
“You can’t exercise your right to see a doctor if there is no doctor for you to see or if you can’t afford to get health care,” he said. “This isn’t limited to abortion services. As a state we have much work to do to improve access to contraception and prenatal care as well as address maternal mortality and domestic violence, which is a leading cause of death for pregnant women.”
Jacob Fischler and Ariana Figueroa contributed to this report.
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