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PARTY LINES: Abortion laws set in Nevada, but politics still a factor

We all know the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 will have no immediate impact in Nevada. That’s because abortion rights were cemented into state law by a voter referendum in 1990.

But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t political ground to be gained over the issue.

On Tuesday, Gov. Steve Sisolak signed an executive order affirming that “… Nevada stands firm in its commitment to protecting reproductive freedom for any person seeking access to reproductive health care in this State.”

His order prohibits executive department agencies from assisting other states in investigating anyone who sought an abortion in Nevada, ensuring no doctor, nurse or pharmacist will lose their license for providing abortion services, and denying extradition of any person who sought or performed an abortion in Nevada.

“Reproductive health care is a basic human right, and Nevada stands firm in its commitment to ensuring there is safe and equitable access for Nevadans and anyone seeking refuge from the restrictive laws in their state,” Sisolak said in a statement. “No one should be punished for providing or receiving necessary medical care, including abortions, contraception and other reproductive health care services.”

EO Reproductive Health Care by Steve Sebelius on Scribd

Sisolak’s order brought a skeptical response from Nevada Right to Life, an anti-abortion group in the state.

“There is no change to Nevada law after the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson. Governor Sisolak knows it, yet he can’t let a good ‘crisis’ go to waste,” Melissa Clement, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “He is hoping that Nevadans do not notice that he is advocating for abortion for all nine months of pregnancy for any reason or no reason. He did not address whether he is encouraging minor girls to come unaccompanied by a parent for a secret abortion. He is acting as chief marketing officer for Planned Parenthood and the Abortion Lobby by helping them import victims for the abortion industry at huge profit in what he hopes to make Nevada, an abortion tourism destination.”

The order also allowed Nevada Democrats to jump on Republican gubernatorial nominee Joe Lombardo, asking whether he’d keep or trash Sisolak’s executive order.

“Joe Lombardo is desperately trying to cover up his support for cruel anti-choice policies but voters won’t soon forget that he backed overturning Nevada’s abortion protections and left the door open for banning contraception,” said Nevada Democratic Victory spokeswoman Mallory Payne. “A week after the Dobbs ruling, Lombardo won’t even answer basic questions about his promise to be an anti-choice governor.”

Democrats cited an answer Lombardo gave during a KLAS Channel 8 debate, in which he said he was “pro-life” and that he’d consider any anti-abortion legislation that was sent to him should he be elected.

Then again, turnabout may be fair play, since Republicans have been asking Sisolak — also without a reply — if there are any restrictions that he’d place on abortion services in Nevada, including late-term abortion. While polls have generally shown support for abortion rights, that support narrows during later stages of pregnancy. According to Gallup, just 20 percent of people (an all-time high, by the way) said abortion should be legal in the final three months of pregnancy.

The abortion question has also come up in the race for U.S. Senate. The Nevada Independent’s Tabitha Mueller obtained audio of Republican nominee Adam Laxalt calling Roe v. Wade “a joke” and saying the ruling had been “a total, complete invention.”

That view, by the way, isn’t just limited to Republicans. Even supporters of abortion rights — including the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – have opined in the past that Roe v. Wade was decided on less than firm grounds. The Washington Post reported Ginsburg favored a more incremental approach, and would have based abortion rights on equal protection rather than an unmentioned constitutional right to privacy.

And Laxalt’s Democratic opponent, Catherine Cortez Masto, clearly believes there’s some potency to the abortion issue. On Friday, she held a news conference on abortion rights to highlight her stance and contrast her view with Laxalt’s.

Recount woes

Lombardo has more to worry about than abortion. His primary opponent, Joey Gilbert, doesn’t want to let his election loss go, even if the nearly 26,000-vote margin is fairly insurmountable. Gilbert this week demanded — and paid for — a statewide recount of the votes that was taking place as this notebook was written.

But wait, there’s more: Gilbert appears intent on challenging the results of the primary election in court, which means the recount drama is but the first chapter in a book of woes for Lombardo, who’d much rather be concentrating on his general-election battle with Sisolak.

The Democratic Governors Association issued a release that delighted in the Republican’s dilemma.

“Joe Lombardo might regret embracing the Big Lie for the past year now that members of his own party are using baseless election conspiracy theories against him,” said DGA spokeswoman Christina Amestoy in a statement. “The general election is just kicking off, and Lombardo’s already proven he can’t unify the Republican base. We look forward to watching his campaign continue to sink over the next four months.”

For the record, Lombardo has never embraced the false allegation that the 2020 election was stolen. Instead, he’s taken a position common in the GOP (former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says the same) that he’s seen no evidence to prove election-fraud claims. (Spoiler alert: That’s because there isn’t any!)

But so long as Gilbert wages a lonely quest to say the election was stolen, Gilbert fans don’t have to make the choice of whether to embrace Lombardo or another candidate in the general. And that’s lost time for Lombardo, and a boon to Sisolak.

Endorsement update

Cortez Masto has snagged a rural Republican endorsement, which is newsworthy given that rural parts of the state tend to be deep red. But Churchill County Commissioner Carl Erquiaga spoke up in an op-ed published in the Reno Gazette-Journal.

“Some of my friends and family have asked me how a Republican can support a Democrat for Senate. And the answer is simple: Sen. Cortez Masto has proven she will deliver for us,” Erquiaga wrote. “From protecting our farms and ranches, to fighting to lower costs for our families, I know I can count on her to advocate for what matters to me. And although I am still proud to be a Republican, I’m going to support Catherine because I know she will always fight for me and my family.”

The endorsement comes on a heels of a TV ad featuring mining employees thanking Cortez Masto for spiking a federal mining tax that could have impacted their industry, which is big in rural parts of the state.

On the same page

It’s no secret that Nevada Democrats are not always on the same page, ever since a cadre of activists affiliated with the Democratic Socialists of America took over the state party last year, and former party operatives formed the rival Nevada Democratic Victory group. But one thing all Democrats seem to agree on is moving Nevada to the head of the line when it comes to nominating the next president.

After the party made its pitch to a committee of the Democratic National Committee, it sent out a news release that had pretty much unanimous support, including party chairwoman Judith Whitmer, U.S. Sens. Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, Sisolak, Reps. Steven Horsford, Susie Lee and Dina Titus, Lt. Gov. Lisa Cano Burkhead, Attorney General Aaron Ford, state Treasurer Zach Conine, former state Sen. Yvanna Cancela, Clark County Commissioner (and ex-Democratic Party chairman) William McCurdy II, state Sen. Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, future Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager, West Wendover Mayor Daniel Corona, and longtime Democratic uber-consultant Rebecca Lambe.

Quotable

“It’s definitely not over,” said Gilbert for governor campaign spokesman Paul White. “There was real outside-the-lines activity in the election.”

Contact Steve Sebelius at SSebelius@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0253. Follow @SteveSebelius on Twitter.

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