Legislative panel hears testimony on codifying protections for abortion

By: - February 21, 2023 5:57 am

SB 131 does not change licensing requirements for any medical provider in the state of Nevada. Its scope is limited to protecting against prosecution for providing or receiving legal abortion services in Nevada. (Photo: Alejandra Rubio)

A hearing on a new bill to codify former Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolok’s protections for abortion providers and out-of-state patients was marked by passionate opposition from anti-abortion rights activists, many making statements that were far afield of the bill’s scope. 

Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, who introduced Senate Bill 131 earlier this month, presented the bill in front of the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor. 

In the months since Roe v. Wade was overturned, about half of the patients seeking abortion services from Planned Parenthood clinics in Nevada are from out of state, according to a statement from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

“Those women are coming to Nevada,” Cannizzaro said Monday. “Clinics across the state are seeing patients coming from Idaho, Texas, Arizona, Utah, and even as far away as the East Coast and our providers expect those numbers to increase.”

The bill would protect people who visit Nevada for services, the licenses of reproductive health care providers in the state and prohibit the state from extraditing reproductive health care providers who are charged in another state for providing services that are legal in Nevada. It would cement the executive order that has been in place since Sisolak signed it after Roe v. Wade was overturned last year. 

Cannizzaro said during Monday’s hearing that to the best of her knowledge, the executive order is still in place.

But Democratic-controlled states passed laws similar to this bill in response to several Republican-controlled states that vowed to prosecute women who left their states to get abortions, several of which surround Nevada, Cannizzaro said. 

Republican state Sen. Jeff Stone said he was concerned about doctors coming to Nevada and circumventing the licensing process. He also questioned whether Nevada would not cooperate with other states in different medical fields. 

SB 131 does not change licensing requirements for any medical provider in the state of Nevada. Its scope is limited to protecting against prosecution for providing or receiving legal abortion services in Nevada. 

But most of the opposition Monday was during an hour of public comment on the bill, much of it drawing on conspiracy theories.

Committee chair Sen. Pat Spearman asked opponents if they could provide evidence of their claims, and they assured her they could, but they didn’t.

Cannizzaro noted that abortion is the only health care service she’s aware of that other states said they would prosecute people who went to other states for the service.

Those who vocalized their support for the bill included the Culinary Union, Planned Parenthood Votes Nevada, Battle Born Progress, the ACLU, and people with lived experience with abortion care.

“​​Nevadans support the right to abortion and Nevada voters proved this fact once again in the 2022 midterm election,” said Annette Magnus, the executive director of Battle Born Progress. “Those who oppose the right to an abortion will stop at nothing to attack this right and we saw that today with the opposition’s constant attempts at disinformation and twisting SB131 into something it is not.”

Opponents of the bills include the Nevada Republican Party and Nevada Families for Freedom.

Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo who took conflicting positions on Sisolak’s executive order during the campaign has indicated more recently that he would be open to supporting the bill.

In a statement Monday, Elizabeth Ray, Lombaro’s communications director, said “Governor Lombardo has encouraged the Legislature to send a clean bill codifying the previous executive order to his desk, and he looks forward to reviewing the proposed legislation.” The committee did not take any action on the legislation at Monday’s hearing. 

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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.