Sisolak, Lee warn Nevada not isolated from assaults on abortion rights

By: - September 9, 2022 6:36 am

The panel Thursday warned a national ban would trump state laws. “This would ultimately overturn the will of the people of Nevada,” Lee said. (Getty Images).

In post-Roe v. Wade America, states and the federal government are left to navigate the legal ramifications of the Supreme Court overturning a 50-year legal precedent. As reproductive health centers, medical professionals, and legislatures that support abortion rights cope with the uncertainty, Republicans and motivated anti-abortion rights activists are pushing for a national ban. 

Nevada U.S. Rep. Susie Lee, fellow Democrat Gov. Steve Sisolak and experts from UNLV Boyd School of Law outlined the ramifications a national ban would have in Nevada during a Thursday roundtable discussion. 

More than 60% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in some circumstances. Nevadans voted to protect abortion rights in 1990.

The panel Thursday warned a national ban would trump state laws and stressed the importance of voting in this year’s midterm elections.

“This would ultimately overturn the will of the people of Nevada,” Lee said.

The Supreme Court’s ruling opened the floodgates for several legal uncertainties, including traveling across state borders, increased wait times, and whether reproductive services should be prioritized to residents, said Sylvia Lazos, a professor of law at UNLV Boyd School of Law.

A national ban would exacerbate these concerns as well as pose threats to the lives of women and families, impacting Black and Hispanic women the most.

In America, Black and Hispanic women account for the most abortions due to disparities in access to and utilization of contraceptives. Geographic barriers, financial access and moving can all limit the access to and use of contraceptives, according to a policy brief by the Guttmacher Institute.

“There’s going to be a whole generation of women who are going to have children that they’re not ready to have,” Lazos said. 

It will impact their access to education, financial independence and their ability to leave relationships that are unhealthy for them, she said. 

That’s if they survive childbirth. 

A national ban would increase maternal mortality rates by 24% in the first year, with the largest increase in deaths for non-Hispanic Black people, by 39%, according to a University of Colorado study.

“The anti-abortion folks made a very calculated decision to, at every level of the court, get conservative judges appointed,” Lindsey Harmon, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes Nevada, said. “A lot of folks may have taken for granted Roe v. Wade, so now we have to push both at the state level and the federal level for champions to take action.” 

Harmon said the best way to take action is to vote for candidates with a track record of supporting abortion access. 

The Supreme Court became a political actor when it overturned Roe v. Wade, and other political rights centered around freedom and privacy, including reproductive health care and marriage equality are now in jeopardy, Lee said.  

The Dobbs v. Jackson ruling, challenged the constitutionality of privacy that was central to the Roe v. Wade decision, which allowed an individual to make decisions about their body without the interference of the government. A concurring opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas suggested cases involving contraception as well as same-sex marriage and partnerships should be overturned on the same basis. 

After outcry over the overturning of Roe v. Wade, several conservative candidates began to backpedal on their stance on a national ban

It’s not just voting for leaders who are pro-abortion access, it’s also holding candidates accountable for previous rallies, statements and actions supporting a national ban, Harmon said.

Both Sisolak and Lee are up for re-election. Democratic candidates in Nevada and nationwide believe the Supreme Court’s ruling has energized many Democratic voters.

April Becker, the Republican challenging Lee, describes herself as “pro-life, with exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother.”

Sisolak’s challenger, Republican Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, acknowledges the decision of Nevada voters in 1990 to keep abortion legal in the state, but also promises he “will always govern as a pro-life governor.”

“This isn’t just a national issue, it comes down to this state,” Sisolak said Thursday. 

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Camalot Todd
Camalot Todd

An award-winning, investigative and enterprise reporter, Camalot Todd has over seven years experience in print, digital, radio and TV journalism. She covered mental and behavioral health in New York for Spectrum News 1 Buffalo through the national service program, Report For America, where she won the Mental Health Advocates of WNY Advocacy Award in 2020 for her coverage on mental health stigma. She also served as an inaugural member of the Report For America Corps Advisory Board Member, 2021-2022. Previously, she reported on community issues in Las Vegas, including a long-term project on underage sex trafficking, for the Las Vegas Sun and its sister publication, Las Vegas Weekly. For the Sun, she wrote a pathbreaking investigative piece called, “Children on the Cusp: The transition from foster care to adulthood is leaving some behind.” The piece won the Nevada Press Association best investigative story of the year and named Camalot the Best Community Reporter of 2017. She also worked as a reporter for KUNV radio and is a graduate of University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Camalot was selected for National Press Foundation Opioid and Addiction Fellow 2021 and led the Syracuse Press Club's Journalism Lab as an educator from 2021-2022.

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