The recent birth of Nevada Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro’s first child was thoroughly planned. Every day, soon after conception, she took a pregnancy test awaiting a positive result. It wasn’t until the fifth week that she and her husband got the good news.
Even then, the couple had to wait a little over a month to see a doctor, and additional weeks to conduct tests to make sure the pregnancy was a healthy one, she said.
Women in Texas under the same circumstances wouldn’t be able to terminate pregnancy past six weeks of conception due to a law that went into effect Sept. 1. That legislation states that any citizen can sue anyone who aids in an abortion, regardless of whether the woman was a victim of rape or incest, for a possible judgment of at least $10,000.
That law, which the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court decided against striking down under procedural grounds, set off alarms among pro-choice advocates. And it’s detrimental to decades-long precedent of women’s reproductive rights, Cannizzaro and U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said this morning at a news conference from southwest Las Vegas.
“It has a potential to create vigilantism and vigilantes prying into their neighbors’ lives, all to stop women from being able to access reproductive health care,” said Cortez Masto, touting Nevada’s past efforts to codify Roe v. Wade, a 1973 landmark Supreme Court case that made abortion a constitutional right.
But those rights are under attack, Cortez Masto said. If the Texas case or other similar abortion-restriction cases moving through the federal court systems are upheld by the conservative-majority Supreme Court, “there’s nothing stopping a Republican-controlled Congress with a Republican in the White House from passing legislation that continues to roll back those (abortion) rights across the country,” she added.
This month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House of Representatives would soon vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would protect the right to abortion by creating a right for health care providers to provide abortion care and a corresponding right for women to receive that care, free from medically unnecessary restrictions.
Cortez Masto, who co-sponsored the legislation, said it’s certain to pass in the House, but needs 60 votes in favor in the Senate, with opposing senators able to filibuster, a procedure the Nevada senator supports.
“If they’re going to oppose this, then I want (Senate Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell or any Republican opposing it standing on the floor of the Senate telling women across this country why they oppose reproductive freedom rights for women.”
A poll in May conducted by the Pew Research Center determined that 6 in 10 U.S. adults say that “abortion should be legal in all or most cases.”
For now, President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice this month asked a federal court in Texas for an injunction on the enforcement of its new law while it decides the case. The court is expected to hear the case in early October.
Courts in the past have blocked other states from imposing similar restrictions, but Texas’ law differs significantly because it leaves enforcement to private citizens through civil lawsuits rather than criminal prosecutions.
The way the Texas legislation was drafted allows for a “loophole” for the “unconstitutional” law, which allows it to possibly evade reviews by courts, Cannizzaro explained.
If Roe v. Wade and other landmark Supreme Court decisions on reproductive rights were overturned, half of U.S. women would have to travel an average of 279 miles to their nearest abortion provider, Cortez Masto said. The current distance is about 25 miles, she added.
Texas, where abortion clinics are complying with the new law, are now seeing some women travel to other states for the procedure, said Adrienne Mansanares, chief experience officer at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.
Mansanares spoke about “very scared patients,” including at least one woman who hopped on an airplane to Las Vegas for a procedure immediately after the ban in Texas went into effect – one of many more to come, she noted.
But “this is not sustainable,” she said. “This ban in Texas cannot stand much longer; it will drain our system and our people and our ability to provide care.”
Cortez Masto said anti-abortion extremists have been working decades to undermine the constitutional right to reproductive rights, and “they’re on the brink of that success.”
“We can’t let a dedicated minority take that right away from the rest of us,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.