Nevada GOP Gov. Joe Lombardo Signs Bill Protecting Out-of-State Abortion Visits

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
May 31, 2023Roe v. Wade
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Nevada GOP Gov. Joe Lombardo Signs Bill Protecting Out-of-State Abortion Visits
Then Nevada Gov.-elect Joe Lombardo gives victory remarks in North Las Vegas, Nev., on Nov. 14, 2022. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Republican Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo, a self-described pro-life Catholic, has signed a bill enabling people to come from other states to get abortions.

On Tuesday, Lombardo signed Senate Bill 131 into law. The bill bars state agencies from assisting in out-of-state investigations that could lead to the prosecution of abortion seekers who travel to Nevada. The bill also bars medical boards and commissions that oversee medical licenses from disciplining or disqualifying doctors who provide abortions.

The Nevada bill comes as other states have limited access to abortions and passed laws to prosecute residents who travel to other states for abortions.

Nevada law currently allows for abortions at up to 24 weeks in the gestational period.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, who sponsored the legislation, thanked Lombardo for signing the bill into law on Tuesday.

“I want 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,” Cannizzaro posted on Twitter.

With his decision to sign the abortion bill, Lombardo became one of only a few Republican governors who have signed laws preserving abortion protections at the state level.

Earlier this month, Republican Vermont Gov. Phil Scott signed a similar law shielding abortion providers from out-of-state prosecutions. In July of last year, then-Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker also signed a bill into law that protects abortion providers from out-of-state prosecutions.

Lombardo’s Abortion Stance

Lombardo beat incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak to win the 2022 Nevada gubernatorial election. Lombardo was the only Republican to defeat a Democratic incumbent in the state during the 2022 election cycle.

Lombardo won the 2022 election with the endorsement of the National Right to Life Committee, a pro-life organization. Lombardo’s campaign website said he is a pro-life candidate but also said that because Nevada voters had codified the right to an abortion in the state through a 1990 referendum, he would leave the issue of abortion policy up to the people of Nevada.

“Nevadans decided long ago that the issue of abortion should only be decided by Nevada voters themselves,” Lombardo’s campaign website states. “In 1990, Nevadans codified the right to an abortion in state law through a referundum, so that only voters could make changes to it moving forward. While Joe will always govern as a pro-life governor, he trusts the people of Nevada to make the important decision of what legislation to send to his desk.”

The abortion bill Lombardo signed into law on Tuesday codifies an executive order Sisolak implemented during his time in office. During the election cycle, Lombardo originally said he would repeal Sisolak’s executive order, but reversed course later on in the election cycle.

“As a career law enforcement officer, I can tell you that we do not assist with any other state investigation of an individual who came to Nevada to participate in an activity that is legal in Nevada, but not legal in their state of residence,” Lombardo said in a Sept. 27 campaign statement addressing the issue of abortion. “What is legal in Nevada is legal here, regardless of the law in any other state. We wouldn’t prosecute Utah residents that come to Nevada to gamble, even though gambling of any kind in Utah is illegal, and we won’t prosecute women from another state that seek a legal abortion in Nevada.”

Cannizzaro subsequently decided to codify Sisolak’s executive order into law, putting Lombardo’s commitment on the out-of-state abortion issue to the test. In a February interview, Lombardo said he would be willing to sign Cannizzaro’s bill into law so long as she didn’t include any additional protections on top of Sisolak’s original executive order.

“Changes in totality of the abortion question needs to be a vote of the people,” Lombardo said in February. “But this particular item involving abortions, I could support if it stands on its own.”

Elizabeth Ray, a spokesperson for Lombardo’s office, said his decision to sign the abortion bill into law was consistent with his prior campaign commitments.

“Governor Lombardo made a campaign commitment to ensure that Nevada would not participate in prosecuting those seeking legal medical care in the state,” Ray said. “Today, Governor Lombardo kept that commitment.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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