Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo signed a measure into law Tuesday that would protect out-of-state abortion seekers and those providing reproductive care from prosecution in Nevada, regardless of other states’ policies.
The measure, SB131, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas), codifies into law an executive order former Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak issued in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. It protected those seeking legal abortions in the Silver State, regardless of where they live, as many states enact dramatically stricter bans on abortion post-Roe.
“Governor Lombardo made a campaign commitment to sign a law ensuring that Nevada would not participate in prosecuting those seeking legal medical care in the state,” Lombardo spokesperson Elizabeth Ray told The Nevada Independent Tuesday.
Nevada’s abortion protections, implemented via a ballot measure in 1990, have been in place for more than 30 years and could only be overturned by a direct majority vote of the people. Nevada’s lawmakers and governor have no authority to restrict abortion access earlier than 24 weeks into pregnancy — the point at which a fetus is generally considered capable of surviving outside the womb without support.
The most recent effort to prohibit abortions in Nevada came in 2012 when anti-abortion activists circulated, but failed to qualify, a ballot initiative to reverse abortion protections by defining life as starting at conception. Polling indicates that a majority of Nevada voters, regardless of party affiliation, support abortion access.
Lombardo’s signature on the bill marks the first significant stance he has taken on abortion access after his position on abortion shifted throughout the election cycle. Previously, Lombardo had signaled he would sign the measure as long as it was a “clean bill” that only focused on preventing state agencies from cooperating with other states wanting to prosecute someone for receiving reproductive care in Nevada.
“Today, #SB131 was signed by Governor Lombardo,” Cannizzaro wrote on Twitter. “I want [to] thank him for following through on his commitment to ensure that Nevada won’t participate in prosecutions of women who come here to exercise their reproductive rights.”
The bill passed out of the Assembly last week on a party-line vote (28-14) with Republicans in opposition and passed out of the Senate on a 16-6 vote in April. Republican Sens. Heidi Seevers Gansert (R-Reno) and Carrie Buck (R-Henderson) joined Democrats in support.
Ahead of the vote, Seevers Gansert said the Dobbs decision overturning Roe allowed states to decide for themselves about how to address reproductive health care, and decision-making around reproductive care is personal.
“Given the hodgepodge of laws across the U.S., the one thing that jumps off the page to me is: Women who face these difficult choices, we need to give them our support and our prayers, but we don’t need to give them jail time,” Seevers Gansert said.
This story was updated at 4:50 p.m. on 5/30/2023 to include a statement from Lombardo’s spokesperson Elizabeth Ray.