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Nevada group sees 37% rise in abortions, driven by people in neighboring states

AP Photo/Ryan Tarinelli
Supporters of a bill that would rewrite Nevada's abortion laws rally in front of the Legislature in Carson City, Nev., on Tuesday, May 21, 2019.

It’s been a year this month since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, which had provided federal protection for women seeking an abortion since 1973.

Since it has been overturned, a dozen states have banned abortion and at least a dozen have imposed tight restrictions on reproductive care. Nevada has moved in the opposite direction, keeping access to abortion legal. Last month, Republican Governor Joe Lombardo became one of the country’s few Republican governors to protect people seeking reproductive care in this state. At the same time, he also vetoed a bill that would have guaranteed the right to contraception in the state.

The patchwork of new state laws on abortion is having an effect on all states. At least 17 states have codified abortion protections, including Nevada. Still, the Silver State is feeling the effect from these newly-enacted abortion restrictions in neighboring states.

According to Planned Parenthood Votes, the political arm of the organization, Nevada has seen an increase in abortions by 37%, mostly due to women traveling here from Arizona and Texas, which has enacted some of the most stringent anti-abortion laws that can include harsh penalties, such as being charged with a felony.

“More women are traveling from Idaho and Utah as well," said Lindsay Harmon, with Planned Parenthood Votes. "And I imagine that that number will continue to grow and you know, continue to put pressure on Nevada's health care system."

“There are more patients in [their] 30s than you would imagine,” she continued, dispelling myths that women seeking abortion are young, impressionable women who made a mistake.

“It's important to remember, too, that each of these patients is an individual person with individual circumstances, and individual stories, they come from all walks of life and they are looking for the right to determine their own future, the right to control their own bodies and to make healthcare decisions with their health care providers and their support group that they choose,” said Harmon.

“We do recognize that Nevada at this point is not a totally pro-life state,” said Melissa Clement with anti-abortion group Nevada Right to Life. “But that gives us something to work toward. One thing that is so frustrating to hear is that really the only thing that stands between me and success or me and happiness is the ability to have an abortion which results in the death of one person and the heartbreak of another."

Lombardo signed a measure extending abortion protections to people who come to Nevada from other states where an abortion might be illegal. It bans our state agencies from helping other states who are investigating, and it also prevents medical boards and commissions that oversee medical licenses from disciplining doctors who provide abortions.

How unhappy with the governor was Clement's group that he signed that?

“I think we need to first stop and talk about what [Senate Bill] 131 did and the executive order that the previous governor put in place,” said Clement. “It created a separate class for doctors, well, for abortionists, different than other doctors. Any other doctor would be subjected to the medical boards here in Nevada, I think it was a faulty executive order."

Does she believe a person who gets an abortion should be put in prison?

“Absolutely not,” said Clement. "In fact, in 2019, when Nevada sought to decriminalize abortion, we were on the same side as Planned Parenthood, but that does not mean that bad men or anybody who coerces a woman into getting an abortion, we believe those people should be criminalized."

Polling has shown that a majority of voters in Nevada support at least some level of abortion access and nationwide, a Gallup poll in May that found about 69% of Americans support in abortion within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Callers voiced their opinion on both sides of the issue.

“I think we’re touching on a very important part of this. When the Dobbs decision came down, I think a lot of states had these trigger bans on the books that were from the early 1800s, that didn't account for medical advances that didn't account for, you know, the reality of what the medical community was looking like then and now. So when those trigger bans happened, and states started, placing new bans in place, there is a lot of confusion, both for the provider community and for patients,” said Harmon.

She added, “And so I think a lot of providers are like, what are the boundaries here? Where can I provide care? When can I make the decision, that this is an emergency situation? And I think the more you remove the provider, the healthcare, the doctor, from those intimate conversations they're having with their patients, the more you're causing chaos in these kinds of situations that are costing people their lives. And so I think that's one of the important caveats here is that the confusion and the fear alone are causing really serious national health crisis in this country."

Wild West Access Fund of Nevada
Gov. Joe Lombardo's veto of Assembly Bill 383

Guests: Lindsey Harmon, executive director, Planned Parenthood Votes; Melissa Clement, executive director, Nevada Right to Life

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Yvette Fernandez is the regional reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau. She joined Nevada Public Radio in September 2021.
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