Nevada's Joe Lombardo on Tuesday became one of the first Republican governors to enshrine protections for out-of-state abortion patients and in-state providers, adding the western swing state to the list of those passing new laws to solidify their status as safe havens for people seeking abortions.
The legislation codifies an existing executive order from former Gov. Steve Sisolak last year — who lost reelection to Lombardo — that bars state agencies from assisting in out-of-state investigations that could lead to the prosecution of abortion patients who travel to Nevada. It also ensures medical boards and commissions that oversee medical licenses do not discipline or disqualify doctors who provide abortions.
Lombardo, who describes himself as pro-life and cites his Catholic faith,that he would respect the will of voters who codified abortion rights up to 24 weeks in a 1990 referendum vote. He was the only Republican to defeat a state Democratic incumbent in the last election. He was endorsed by National Right to Life.
Lombardo is only the third Republican governor — following Vermont Gov. Phil Scott and former Massachusetts Gov.— to sign a law enshrining protections for abortion.
The provisions became a major flashpoint in one of the closest governor's races of the 2022 midterms. Lombardo originally said he would repeal the executive order, but said months later he would uphold it, a reversal that Sisolak's campaign repeatedly emphasized. In February, he signaled that he would sign the bill, which was sponsored by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro. It does not add protections not already in Sisolak's executive order.
"I'm glad to see Senate Bill 131 was signed by Governor Lombardo today, and I want to thank him for following through on his commitment to ensuring that Nevada won't participate in prosecutions of women who come here to exercise their reproductive rights," Cannizzaro said in a statement Tuesday.
Earlier this month, Nevada's Democratic-controlled Legislature advanced a resolution that would enshrine the existing abortion rights in the state constitution, which would make it much harder to repeal. After passing the 2023 session, it must also pass in 2025 before appearing in front of voters on the 2026 ballot. That process does not include the governor's approval.
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