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From ‘Hallelujah’ to ‘Hell, no,’ Nevada reactions to abortion ruling span spectrum


From ‘Hallelujah’ to ‘Hell, no,’ Nevada reactions to abortion ruling span spectrum

Jun 24, 2022 | 3:43 pm ET
By Dana Gentry
From ‘Hallelujah’ to ‘Hell, no,’ Nevada reactions to abortion ruling span spectrum
Pro-abortion rights groups and supporters demonstrating in Las Vegas last month following the initial reports that the U.S. Supreme Court would overturn Roe v Wade. (Photo courtesy of Battle Born Progress)

The end of the nearly half-century battle to overturn Roe v. Wade, the case that gave Americans the constitutional right to an abortion, is accelerating the divisive debate – especially among candidates seeking election in November.  

Republican gubernatorial candidate and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo is leaving the door open for Nevada’s long-standing abortion protections, which are codified in law, to be overturned at the polls.  

“This morning, the United States Supreme Court rightfully returned the power to the people and their elected state representatives,” Lombardo said in a statement. “As the U.S. Supreme Court decided today and as Nevadans decided long ago, this important issue was and should be decided by Nevada voters, and moving forward, I trust them to make the best decision for our state.” 

Gov. Steve Sisolak, in a statement, called the decision “devastating for tens of thousands of Nevada women, but it’s exactly what my opponent wanted. … Joe Lombardo committed to signing legislation that could roll back current protections codified in Nevada statute and he left the door open to implementing new barriers to abortion and limiting access to contraceptives. Politicians should never have a say when it comes to the personal decision of when or if to start a family and as long as I’m governor, I’ll keep it that way.”

“This morning, a fundamental freedom was revoked on a basis of political caprice,” Attorney General Aaron Ford, a Democrat, said on Twitter. “Like millions of you, I am outraged and horrified.”

Ford’s opponent, Republican candidate Sigal Chattah, said during a primary election debate on Nevada Newsmakers that she would prosecute women who have abortions.  

“The way I look at it is the same way that we do sentencing enhancements on unborn children, victims of unborn children. I would marry it to that,” she said, adding she believes “life begins at the time of fetal heartbeat.”  

“As Nevada’s next Attorney General, I will faithfully protect and defend the laws of the State whether I personally agree with them or not,” Chattah said Friday on Twitter.  But on Nevada Newsmakers, Chattah said she would not defend programs with which she disagrees.  

The U.S. Senate seat held by Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat, could be key to anticipated legislative efforts to codify abortion nationwide. 

Cortez Masto’s challenger, Republican Adam Laxalt, called the ruling “a historic victory for the sanctity of life and the principles of democratic self-determination,” but said voters are focused on other issues. “The people of Nevada have already voted to make abortion rights legal in our state and the Court’s decision on Roe doesn’t change settled law and it won’t distract voters from unaffordable prices, rising crime or the border crisis.”  

A statement from Cortez Masto notes that although abortion is protected in Nevada law, “a Republican Congress could enact laws to restrict abortion nationwide. “

“Women need the full range of reproductive health services to make important decisions about their physical and mental health, their bodies, their economic future, and their families’ well-being,” Cortez Masto said.”The majority of Nevadans agree, and I will continue to fight for reproductive rights and push back on extremist laws that deprive people of essential health care.”

Cortez Masto cosponsored the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would ensure access to abortion in America.  

“Abortion rights are human rights and should not be subject to the political whims of the few,” Congresswoman Dina Titus, a Democrat, said in a statement, calling the ruling “an assault on all women but particularly those living in minority, underserved, and impoverished communities.” 

“This will not stop here,” Titus said. “Conservative judges have already stated an intention to revisit other constitutional rights like contraception and same-sex marriage. Thus begins the outrageous, but not surprising, erosion of long-standing human rights in this country.”

“I am unequivocally pro-life and pro-constitution. Today’s decision by the Supreme Court is the right decision,” Titus’s Republican opponent, Mark Robertson, said on Twitter. “Our Constitution is clear there is no role for the Federal Government on the issue of abortion.”

Democratic Rep. Susie Lee called the ruling “the direct result of anti-choice extremists’ cruel efforts to control women’s lives,” and said Republicans will “stop at nothing to enact a nationwide abortion ban.” 

Lee said her Republican opponent, April Becker, is endorsed by “radical anti-choice groups that support a ban on abortion with no exceptions, and would overturn the will of Nevadans who voted to protect abortion rights decades ago.” 

Becker was not available for comment, according to her campaign manager. 

Congressman Mark Amodei acknowledged that Nevada voters alone can change the state’s codified protection of abortion rights. 

“In Congress, my voting record and legislative actions will continue (to) reflect my commitment to protecting life,” Amodei said in a statement. “This includes preserving the Hyde Amendment and preventing the taxpayer funding of abortions and opposing the majority party’s abortion-on-demand agenda.” 

Amodei’s opponent, Mercedes Krause, did not respond to a request for comment. 

“Today, I stand in solidarity with the 36 million women being stripped of their right to decide what is best for themselves,” Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford said on Twitter. “We WILL keep fighting.”

“Life wins,” Horsford’s challenger, Republican Sam Peters, wrote on Twitter. “Thank you #SCOTUS & #PresidentTrump.”

NARAL Pro-Choice Nevada says between the 13 states with abortion bans that will be triggered by the Court’s ruling, and the other states expected to ban abortion, Nevada could see a 63% increase in women seeking abortions, from 110,000 a year to 180,000.

Wake-up call for Democrats

Activists fear the Court’s ruling is the first of a series intended to erode personal rights.  

“Our fundamental rights are under attack like never before, and the same anti-abortion extremists seeking to control the bodies of pregnant people are coming for the right to access birth control and gender-affirming care, marry who we love, and vote,” ACLU of Nevada Executive Director Athar Haseebullah said in a statement. 

“By overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court has now officially given politicians permission to control what we do with our bodies,” Lindsey Harmon, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes Nevada, said in a statement. 

Annette Magnus, executive director of Battle Born Progress, has spent her career working to preserve rights such as abortion, contraceptive choice, and marriage freedom.  

“Yes, I am extremely worried that now they will use this decision as the floor and take advantage of all kinds of other personal freedoms to control our bodies and control who we love,” she said Friday morning. 

Magnus expects the ruling to cut through voter malaise said to be plaguing Democrats. 

“If this doesn’t do it, I don’t know what the hell will,” she says, adding she fears young people have taken for granted the rights they’ve known all their lives.  

“People need to wake up and realize this is the fight of our lives. And it’s not just about abortion,” she says. “It’s about everything – marriage equality, being able to make medical choices. It’s about personal freedoms. I don’t understand how we live in a country where a gun has more rights than my uterus.”

“Hallelujah!”said Janine Hansen, who first testified against abortion at the Nevada Legislature in 1971 when she was 19 years old. “So my whole adult life I have been working to save the lives of the unborn. And the women.” 

Hansen knows change is unlikely in her home state as a result of the Supreme Court ruling. 

“But at least this is a beginning to recognize the humanity and innocence of the unborn and the millions of women who have been harmed by Roe v. Wade,” she said during a phone interview.

What does Hansen say to the women tethered by unplanned pregnancies to economic or personal despair?  

“You know, what would I say to them? ‘My heart goes out to you. I’m sorry, but killing babies doesn’t resolve your issues,’” she says. “They should have made their decision before they became pregnant.” 

Hansen points out there are “very humane options like adoption.”  

She acknowledges thousands of children in Nevada languish in foster care, many of whom are available for adoption.  

“There are very few babies that are unadopted,” she says. “It’s not babies. It’s older children.”