Pro-choice activists rally in favor of S.B. 179 in Carson City on May 21, 2019.
Jason Bean, RGJ
RENO, Nev. — The Nevada Assembly on Tuesday advanced a wide-ranging bill to decriminalize abortion procedures, moving it closer to becoming law as protests unfolded nationwide against abortion restrictions in other states.
No Republicans joined the near-unanimous bloc of Assembly Democrats who supported the bill known as the Trust Nevada Women Act. It now heads back to the state Senate, where lawmakers must agree on an amendment before sending the bill to Gov. Steve Sisolak.
The bill would repeal existing prohibitions on self-induced abortions and drugs that cause a miscarriage.
It also removes a requirement that doctors explain “the physical and emotional implications” of an abortion. Doctors could simply “describe the nature and consequences of the procedure” in a patient-signed consent form, and would no longer need to record the age of a patient seeking the procedure.
Pro-choice advocates see the bill as a bulwark against a rising tide of threats to federal abortion protections. Last week’s near-total abortion ban passed in Alabama is just the latest reason Nevada needs to fortify its own abortion-friendly statute, they said.
“All across the country women’s rights are being threatened by extremist politicians,” said Assemblywoman Shea Backus, D-Las Vegas. “These are draconian laws that have no business in a free society.
“Women, no matter where they live, deserve to feel safe. These are matters that should be decided by women themselves.
Women were the only ones who spoke from the Assembly floor ahead of Tuesday’s vote.
GOP women say bill could allow abuse, trafficking
Republican lawmakers Jill Tolles and Robin Titus offered passionate statements against the measure, which they feared did not go far enough to ensure the age of patients seeking an abortion.
“I don’t support criminal penalties for women who have an abortion,” Tolles said. “If that was all this bill did, I would support it. However, this bill goes beyond cleaning up antiquated laws.
“Without the provision requiring a physician to ask the age of a patient, we may be missing clear red flags of abuse and trafficking.”
Nevada’s abortion statute, first enacted in 1973 and upheld by voters in a 1990 referendum, allows a woman to have a physician-provided abortion within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. Abortions provided outside that time frame are only legal if the mother’s life or health is in danger.
Violations of the law are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and as much as $10,000 in fines. No one has ever been prosecuted under the statute.
The bill advanced Tuesday would do away with all that, prompting fierce resistance from pro-life advocates, including a few who earlier begged lawmakers to stand against “murder” and “legalized infanticide.”
Why Nevada is likely unaffected if Roe overturns
Tuesday’s vote came amid renewed concerns about whether an increasingly conservative U.S. Supreme Court might overturn Roe v. Wade — the landmark 1973 ruling that limited restrictions on abortion.
But Nevada’s decades-old, voter-approved abortion law, known as Question 7, would likely insulate the state from the impact of reversing Roe.
The popular measure, passed in 1990 with support from nearly two-thirds of Nevada voters, effectively sealed Roe’s protections into state law. It would take another statewide vote to reverse the referendum.
Abortion foes have lost such a fight before, most recently in 2012, when they failed to gather the signatures needed to put a Question 7-killing measure to voters.
Any future efforts to undo the initiative would require a pair of majority votes in the state Legislature or the collection of at least 112,000 autographs from Nevada voters.
Assemblywoman Dina Neal, D-North Las Vegas, was the only Democrat who voted against the bill on Tuesday. Democratic Sens. Marcia Washington and Mo Denis opposed the bill’s April passage out of the state Senate.
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