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‘This is devastating’: While anti-abortion groups celebrate, Nevada doctors, leaders worry

Abortion Protests Las Vegas
AP Photo/John Locher

People rally in support of abortion rights Tuesday, May 21, 2019, in Las Vegas.

Last week’s leaked Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade — and open the door for states to make abortions illegal — is alarming doctors in Nevada and across the country

Especially concerning is that the decision could have a greater impact on patients in communities of color.

Less than a year ago, an opinion poll said 70% of Nevadans support choice— a woman’s right to have an abortion. That mirrors polls nationwide.

'It really makes me concerned'

“Immediately thought about all of my patients, and what it would be like for them,” said Dr. Ashley Doreulo. She’s a doctor of obstetrics and gynecology at Sunrise Mountainview Hospital in Las Vegas. She’s also a member of the nonpartisan medical professionals’ group, Committee to Protect Health Care.

She said there are many health risks that come with denying access to abortion.

“Pregnancy is a time where a woman's body is very vulnerable to blood clots, to bleeding infection. Their immune system is down relative to their health otherwise, and so they're putting so much at risk,” she said.

Women of color make up many of those with little health care access. She said they are patients whose health is already at a more vulnerable baseline with hypertension or diabetes, both of which complicate pregnancy.

She also noted the financial burden women seeking abortion access will face.

These women have families, they oftentimes have other children who are going to take care of these kids when they have to travel, or even fly out, to get access to a safe abortion procedure, when a clinic or a provider that’s skilled in providing safe abortions is not within driving distance.

“Not having access to those safe abortions, it really makes me concerned.”

In Nevada, women are guaranteed the right to a legal abortion until 24 weeks of pregnancy. After that, it can be done if the pregnancy could be fatal.

She said she’s already seeing patients travel to Nevada for abortion access.

“The other week, I took care of a patient, this patient came in from Texas, and had her procedure done,” Doreulo said. “And she had a family back home, had children. She literally flew in the same day, had her procedure. And about like an hour or two after the procedure, she had to go straight to the airport.”

The doctor said what a woman, or anyone with a uterus, does with their body, is between that patient and their provider. She said an abortion can be “the most difficult decision of this patient’s life.”

'Educate and advocate for life'

Melissa Clement is the executive director of Nevada Right to Life, an anti-abortion group. She said their group’s mission is to “educate and advocate for life, from conception to natural death.”

She said she hopes the leaked draft brief becomes the final decision. While politicians in some states are going beyond abortion to call for restricting birth control access, Clement said her group does not take a stand on contraception.

She called Nevada’s abortion access “extreme.”

“I believe that Nevadans will eventually see that [abortion] is the most extreme human rights violation,” Clement said. Her group is “very interested” in parental notification.

“You know, a girl as young as nine can get an abortion without a parent even knowing in Nevada. We've been trying to change that. We will be running a statutory initiative,” she said.

Luis from Henderson, who called in, responded: “Whenever you have someone that's advocating for girls and children, their ramifications, and then justifications are just absolutely hypocritical and disgusting, especially when this hypocrisy comes from organizations that do nothing at all to support the girls except to use the unborn as some form of bargaining chip for power.”

Clement said whenever a woman faces an unplanned pregnancy, “we as a community should be coming around her, walking alongside her and helping her understand that there are there is help out there.”

She said many families would welcome the child through adoption.

Danielle called in to share her story. She’s had an abortion, given birth, and given a child up for adoption. She’s a nurse practitioner who was “very young” when she had the abortion and was homeless when she gave up her child for adoption.

“I feel like in a lot of these instances, we sort of glibly talk about adoption as a very viable option. And while it is, it's certainly not an easy thing. I can definitely say it was the hardest thing that I've ever done to give a child up for adoption,” she said. “To be able to make those decisions for myself without government interference, or anyone else telling me what I needed to do, was absolutely crucial for me to be where I am now.”

Recently graduated from UNLV, Angelique Clark is an anti-abortion activist who founded a pro-life clothing company. She called abortion “the greatest human rights injustice of our time,” saying life begins at fertilization, and thus, every abortion is “taking a life.”

We know that our value doesn't come from how we're conceived.

“We know that our value doesn't come from how we're conceived,” Clark said. “So, whether we're conceived through a horrible crime, or whether we're conceived in a peaceful, happy family, we shouldn't determine someone's value based on how they're conceived. Because the person doesn't get to choose that.”

Heather called in to ask if IVF patients, when an implantation is unsuccessful, “am I a murderer?”

“I definitely see IVF as creating children as a commodity, because you're really just creating multitudes of human life and letting them sit there,” Clark said.

'This is devastating'

In Washington, Nevada Congresswoman Susie Lee said reversing Roe could lead to sweeping changes in how Congress does business. She also thinks the decision could be a slippery slope leading to more control over the personal lives of Americans.

“This is devastating. I think it's a devastating attack on women in this country,” Lee told KNPR last week. “You know, this has been a precedent for close to 50 years, making sure that women have the right to make their own choice about their own bodies. So, I find this as an incredibly disturbing development.”

While she hadn’t supported removing the filibuster in the past, she said they must find a way to codify Roe v. Wade. “If removing the filibuster gets us a path to do that, I’m in favor of it.”

This is an incredibly unpopular development for Nevadans and for women in Nevada.

“This is an incredibly unpopular development for Nevadans and for women in Nevada,” she said, noting the state’s majority women state legislature, Supreme Court and congressional delegation.

She continued, “We're already seeing in Nevada, on an already strained healthcare system, that women who are in 16 other states in our vicinity, coming here to access abortion, because they have limits in their own state.”

She said she agreed with President Joe Biden when he called the leaked draft a slippery slope. Lee said the basis for the decision could be applied to same-sex marriage or interracial marriage.

“If you want to protect a woman's right to choose, if you want to protect access to abortion, make sure you're electing members of congress and senate who support that,” she said.

She called it her responsibility to stand up and “make sure we can work together in Washington.”

“This is a fight that's worth fighting. And I'm not giving up on this country. I'm not giving up on this democracy. And I'm certainly not giving up on women's right to choose and making sure that women in this country have that basic freedom.”

Ashley Doruelo, OB-GYN, Sunrise Mountainview Hospital; Susie Lee, congresswoman (D-NV); Angelique Clark, anti-abortion activist, founder of;  Melissa Clement, executive director, Nevada Right To Life

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Christopher Alvarez is a news producer and podcast audio editor at Nevada Public Radio for the State of Nevada program, and has been with them for over a year.
Lorraine Blanco Moss is the host of KNPR's award-winning Asian American Pacific Islander podcast, Exit Spring Mountain. She's also a former producer for State of Nevada, specializing in food and hospitality, women's issues, and sports.
Kristen DeSilva (she/her) is the audience engagement specialist for Nevada Public Radio. She curates and creates content for, our weekly newsletter and social media for Nevada Public Radio and Desert Companion.