Despite 1990 referendum, Nevada’s abortion laws not guaranteed

Published: May. 9, 2022 at 4:04 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - While protests continue out in front of the U.S. Supreme Court anticipating a reversal of Roe Vs. Wade, a 50-year-old decision legalizing is just assumed, regardless of the ruling, Nevada’s abortion laws will stay just as they are.

In one way, that’s true. A 1990 referendum approved overwhelmingly by voters at the time requires another vote by the voters to outlaw abortion.

But there are subsections of the Nevada abortion law which have been modified over the years.

In 2019 lawmakers passed the “Trust Nevada Women Act” otherwise known as Senate Bill 179. It removed language in the statutes which supporters of the bill said were outdated.

“Some of those were issues such as criminalizing abortions so that women and their doctors could potentially go to prison for the act of healthcare,” says Sarah Peters, who represents Assembly District 24 in the Nevada Legislature.

She was first elected to the 80th Nevada Legislative Session in 2019.

The “Trust Nevada Women Act” passed along party lines during that legislature. In 2019, the legislature was the first in the country to have a majority of women members.

That may not always be the case. Nor will the Democratic majorities in both houses of the legislature stay the same. The person in the governor’s office could change.

Such shifts in power could mean additional modifications to Nevada’s abortion laws.

“Mandated counseling which often includes anti-abortion propaganda,” says Peters. “We could have increased targeted restrictions on abortion providers called trap rules. We could also end up with bounty rules similar to what’s going on in Texas,” she says.

After 50 years, women, doctors, lawmakers are all in uncharted territory. The outcome of the November elections will provide a better roadmap as to where Nevada’s abortion laws are headed.

Nevada’s legislature could make slight alterations to Nevada’s abortion law like a waiting period or ultrasounds. But an outright ban on abortions would require a vote of the people.

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