know about Sisolak: Governors are the ‘last line of defense’ for reproductive freedom
“Governors are the last line of defense to protect reproductive freedoms,” he said. “The responsibility stops with us.”
The announcement came in the side room of a Reno coffee shop and wine store, where he featured a panel of obstetricians and gynecologists, medical students and reproductive rights advocates to discuss his plans to protect access to abortion, as Reproductive rights have become central to his electoral campaign in the key state and that of Democrats across the country.
In the days after the Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn Roe v. Wade, Sisolak signed the executive order saying Nevada will not assist other states that try to prosecute residents who travel to Nevada for abortions. He also ensures that medical boards and commissions that oversee medical licensing do not sanction or disqualify doctors who perform abortions.
For that order to become law, a legislator would have to sponsor the bill and go through the legislative process. Due to Nevada’s biennial legislative structure, it can only be passed in the 2023 or 2025 sessions.
Even in Nevada, where abortion within 24 weeks has been codified as law since 1990, Sisolak has become one of a growing number of Democrats who made the overturn of Roe v. Wade an important topic of conversation. On August 17, he said his role is to “continue the access that exists” and expand funding resources for providers.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Joe Lombardo, an anti-abortion candidate, indicated he might overturn Sisolak’s executive order, but refused to take a hard line.
“I would have to assess it and look at it from a pro-life governor’s point of view,” he said in an emailed statement Aug. 17. He previously told the KRNV television station that he would cancel it.
Sisolak has repeatedly said that Lombardo will work to implement a 13-week abortion ban through a referendum if elected. Asked if he would support restricting access to abortion through a referendum, Lombardo said that if voters or the state legislature put a measure on the ballot, he would “support giving them the final decision.”
He did not indicate whether he would actively promote a referendum.
“I support giving the voters the final decision, as codified in Nevada law,” he said.
Republican candidates hope a red wave this year will return them to power in Nevada, where Democrats have enjoyed trifecta control of the governor’s mansion and both houses of the Legislature since 2018.
But with abortion resurgent as a central campaign issue in this year’s midterm elections, the party is taking a very different approach than it did in 2014, when it last won control of the state house and the governorship. That year, the state party released a statement opposing abortion from its platform. This year, however, its leading candidates have emphasized that abortion rights are codified in state law and that it would take a vote of the people in a referendum to restrict abortion here, not a legislative battle like in other states.
“I am Catholic and pro-life, but in Nevada, abortion rights are codified into law and only Nevada voters can change that,” Lombardo said.
In the cafeteria, Sisolak emphasized that there were big differences between him and his opponent.
“People need to make the decision with that in mind,” he said. “This is a situation where we cannot afford to take steps back.”
The panel also discussed out-of-state patients coming to Nevada from Texas, as well as neighboring Idaho, Utah and Arizona, who have come forward with plans to restrict abortion access. They discussed the lack of OB/GYN training centers and the need for one at the University of Nevada, Reno.
A Planned Parenthood representative spoke of a soon-to-open location at the Reno airport that will help a growing number of out-of-state patients who see Nevada as a safe haven.
The question of “what’s next” for abortion access is an issue that affects almost every contest throughout the state of Nevada. In the close race for the US Senate, both candidates have tried to define the position of the other.
Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto warned that Republican challenger Adam Laxalt could be the swing vote for a national abortion ban that would replace the Nevada state law, a position Laxalt called “falsehood.” Laxalt has tried to paint Cortez Masto as an extremist, saying that he advocates “infanticide” or abortion up to the moment of birth, a procedure that does not occur.
Associated Press writer Sam Metz in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.
Stern is a staff member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercover issues.