The fact that abortion rights are codified in Nevada law doesn’t mean citizens should be complacent. That’s the warning from some Democratic candidates for office, who are using Donald Trump’s game-changing choice for the Supreme Court to hammer home the importance of November’s election.
Clark County Commissioner and gubernatorial hopeful Steve Sisolak, state senate majority leader and candidate for attorney general Aaron Ford and State Sen. Nelson Araujo, who is running for secretary of state, joined with the abortion rights group NARAL for a news conference in front of U.S. Sen. Dean Heller’s office. The candidates and abortion rights activists are imploring Heller to vote against Trump’s pick, a seemingly empty gesture given Heller’s public support for Brett Kavanaugh.
Nevada is one of nine states with codified abortion rights. Voters overwhelmingly approved Question 7 in 1990, which prevented Nevada’s existing law permitting abortion until 24 weeks from being “amended, repealed or otherwise changed, except by the direct vote of the people.”
But Sisolak says Nevadans must remain vigilant.
“With fewer and fewer safeguards at the national level it’s critical we stand strong here at the state level,” he said.
Sisolak said reproductive decisions are between a woman and her doctor and “not dictated by a political agenda,” a reference to his Republican opponent, Attorney General Adam Laxalt.
Despite campaign promises to the contrary, Laxalt has used his office to further his anti-abortion rights agenda.
“Adam Laxalt will not fight for women’s access to critical health care. Instead, he wants to roll back the clock on women’s reproductive rights right here in Nevada,” Sisolak said.
“He’s already used his taxpayer-funded office to sign on to multiple efforts across the country to limit women’s rights.”
In another apparent reference to Laxalt, Sisolak said the government should “not tie the hands of women or providers with unnecessary restrictions and deceptive practices.”
Laxalt is a legal advocate of “pregnancy centers” which often masquerade as abortion providers but use ultrasounds and other methods to persuade women seeking an abortion to change their minds.
In an interview with the Current, Sisolak said he’s concerned the reconfigured Supreme Court “potentially could do something more drastic” than return the abortion issue to the states.
“I think you can start biting around the edges and get to the middle. You get into little picky things. We don’t want to go down that road,” he added.
Other states protect abortion rights via constitutional amendment, which offers legal protections against efforts to impose restrictions such as parental notification.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a policy research organization, if Roe v. Wade were overturned, laws currently on the books could restrict access in almost two dozen states. Four states with “trigger laws” (Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota) would automatically ban abortion while 10 states would revert to abortion bans that pre-date Roe. Another seven states have laws to restrict the right to an abortion to the extent the law allows.
NARAL organizer Cindy Hernandez says Sisolak is referring to laws that impose standards on abortion providers that are not required of other practitioners: “They are called TRAP laws. It stands for Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers. They have nothing to do with health and safety. They are just designed to make it impossible for providers to be in business.”
Another tactic that can be employed by governors and lawmakers is cutting funds for Planned Parenthood.
Hernandez warns that some lower court rulings are on track to the Supreme Court that will give the court an opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“America could soon have a patchwork quilt of laws covering states. We don’t want that,” she says. “That’s why we’re advocating for pro-choice candidates in state offices and the Legislature. Adam Laxalt has dodged our questions. He’s gone to fake ‘pregnancy centers’ that don’t respect a woman’s right to choose.”
Laxalt’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Majority leader Ford said that Kavanaugh, if confirmed, will not represent the rights of all Americans.
“This nomination is another instance of a long line of attacks on women’s rights from the Trump administration,” Ford told reporters.
Sen. Araujo urged Nevadans to reach out to their friends to contact Heller and make their feelings known about the Supreme Court nominee. The group later delivered messages to Heller’s office.