Nevadans on both sides of the abortion issue filled overflow rooms in Carson City and Las Vegas Monday afternoon for a legislative hearing on a bill that would ease the ability of women to obtain the procedure.
“If this were a bill on any other subject but abortion, we’d have a room with just me testifying,” said Senator Yvanna Cancela, who sponsored the measure and testified before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee about the need to clean up what she called outdated provisions in Nevada law.
“In Nevada, unlike most states, should Roe v Wade be overturned, abortion would remain legal via statute,” she said, praising the leaders who worked to codify abortion rights in Nevada statute in 1990.
Under Senate Bill 179, the Trust Nevada Women Act, medical professionals would not be required to inform women of the emotional side effects of ending a pregnancy.
“I have concerns about the word ‘emotion’ being in statute,” said Cancela.
Instead, informed consent would be limited to the existence of the pregnancy, the gestational age of the fetus and the associated risks of the procedure. The bill would not prevent physicians from answering questions about mental health effects.
“Physicians are going to use this law as the baseline and then they are going to apply standards of care,” testified Catherine O’Mara of the Nevada State Medical Association. “They will talk about emotional side effects.”
The bill would also eliminate any requirement that women report their age and whether they are married.
Sen. Scott Hammond, a Republican on the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, argued that husbands should have the right to know if their wives are seeking to terminate a pregnancy.
“As a father, you want to ask so it makes her think for a second about the consequences she’s undertaking. I think it’s really relevant, if not medically relevant. This is a highly-charged event in somebody’s life.”
“It is not the doctor’s duty to inform a partner of a woman’s decision,” responded Cancela. “The same kind of requirement is not put into any other procedure. A man is not asked his marital status before he gets a vasectomy.”
Melissa Clement of Nevada Right to Life testified she fears that not requiring young women to disclose their age would thwart efforts to identify sexual abuse and trafficking.
“A very young girl having an abortion is an indicator of sexual abuse and someone should be notified,” she said.
The bill would also remove criminal penalties for providers of drugs that induce abortion.
Caroline Mello Roberson, the state director of NARAL, testified the legislation is broadly supported by Nevadans who uphold the right to abortion without criminal penalty and support eliminating outdated language.
The bill, which originally called for scrapping parental notification provisions that remain in Nevada law but are not enforced, was amended to eliminate that proposed change.
In addition to Cancela, the primary sponsors of the Trust Nevada Women Act are Sen. Julia Ratti, who chairs the Health and Human Services Committee, Sen. Melanie Scheible, Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel, Assemblywoman Shannon Bilbray-Alexrod, Assemblywoman Sarah Peters and Assemblywoman Rochelle Nguyen. The measure has an additional 19 co-sponsors.