Guest column:

The campaign for choice continues

In 1989, in response to an increasingly hostile national conversation around reproductive freedom, a group of trailblazing, forward-thinking and fearless Nevada women got together in Reno to form the Campaign for Choice.

This group grew, and eventually led the successful effort to pass ballot Question 7 in 1990. The ballot measure passed 200,645 to 115,495 and thus codified Roe v. Wade in the state. This makes Nevada one of nine states with voter-affirmed access to abortion.

I was 6 years old when that happened. I am so thankful for the women who stood up and fought for my right to choose if, when and how to become a parent long before it was something I realized I needed to fight for.

Like many women of my generation, I took it for granted that I could make choices about my own family without a politician’s say-so. I assumed this was a right I would always have.

Fast-forward to 2019, and just as I begin parenting my 1-year-old daughter, I’m appalled to see that all across America we are facing a coordinated, aggressive assault on our right to choose by a small, fringe, anti-choice movement emboldened by a president who made a campaign pledge to punish those who have abortions.

Last week, Mississippi’s governor signed a law that bans abortion at six weeks, before most people know they’re pregnant. (It’s worth noting that 85 percent of the members of the Mississippi legislature are men, making it one of the most male-dominated legislatures in the country). Mississippi joins a long list of states in which legislators have introduced such bills this year.

Despite the legal precedent rejecting these abortion bans — Kentucky’s ban has already been blocked by the court — we’re seeing state legislatures all over the country move similar bans.Georgia, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee are hearing bans on abortion at six weeks. In addition, six-week bans have been introduced but have not yet moved in Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, South Carolina and West Virginia.

Make no mistake about it: The folks who pass these laws know they’re unconstitutional — in fact, that is their motivation for passing them. Their goal is to end access to legal abortion nationwide. They want these restrictive laws to make it to the Supreme Court, where they have an anti-choice majority thanks to the recent addition of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The court is ready to criminalize abortion and punish women.

And even here in Nevada, there is still a law on the books that punishes women for ending pregnancies, with fines of up to $10,000 or up to 10 years in prison. That is why NARAL Pro-Choice Nevada is supporting SB179, known as the Trust Nevada Women Act, championed by state Sen. Yvanna Cancela, D-Las Vegas. This legislation does two things:

• It removes the law from over 100 years ago that criminalizes abortion

• It updates our informed consent law to 2019 medical standards, making sure that pregnant people are getting medically accurate information, in a language they understand.

The Trust Nevada Women Act is common sense legislation that would bring Nevada’s laws in line with Nevadans’ values.

Here is the great and not surprising news given our history: Nevadans support the provisions in the Trust Nevada Women Act across the board. A recent poll conducted on behalf of NARAL showed that a majority of Nevadans personally support a woman’s right to abortion and believe it should be legal and available. In other words, they do not believe government should prevent a woman from making that decision for herself. Nevadans also supported removing language in the state Constitution that would criminalize women for accessing abortion, and said they would be more supportive of their elected officials if they made efforts to protect Roe v. Wade.

And it’s not just the polls that show Nevadans support reproductive freedom. When NARAL began organizing in Nevada in 2016, we had 900 members. We now have more than 45,000 battle born, feminist strong Nevadans fighting for reproductive freedom. And these aren’t just names on paper, they’re getting to work. These are the folks taking a Feminist Road Trip from Las Vegas to Carson City to share their stories and advocate for the Trust Nevada Women Act. They’re the people making phone calls every week to encourage other Nevadans to contact their legislators. They’re collecting postcards and sending passionate, handwritten notes to their lawmakers. They’re not taking no for an answer.

As one of the few places in America with voter-affirmed protection to abortion, it is essential that we take this important step now and stand up for reproductive freedom by passing the Trust Nevada Women Act. Nevadans have long held that decisions about when, if and how to become a parent are deeply personal. The government should not interfere.

With the first majority female state Legislature in the nation, Nevada is uniquely poised to send a message of hope to women across the country. Trust Nevada Women and pass SB179 — for me, for my daughter and for all Nevadans. It can’t come soon enough.

Caroline Mello Roberson is state director of NARAL Pro-Choice Nevada.