On Friday May 31st, Governor Steve Sisolak signed Senate Bills 179 and 94 into law, thrusting Nevada into the national spotlight as a beacon of hope for the prochoice movement that has been in the daily headlines. SB 179 decriminalizes abortion in the state of Nevada by repealing prohibitions on self-induced abortions and drugs that cause a miscarriage as well as allowing doctors to simply explain the nature and consequences of the procedure while striking down a previous requirement that required doctors to explain the physical and emotional implications of the procedure. This law brings Nevada in line with current medical practices and repealing antiquated laws in the state. It should be noted that local activists for NARAL Pro- Choice America, Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and the Yellowhammer Fund were instrumental in the introduction, support and eventual passing of this bill, their efforts and time spent achieving this goal are to be commended and appreciated. SB 94 will allocate six million dollars in funding for statewide family planning grants as this bill will award grants to local government entities and nonprofit organizations. It will provide funding to cover immunizations, different types of birth control, emergency contraception and sterilization procedures for men. This will be to provide the state of Nevada flexibility as the federal government as imposed restrictions on the reproductive dollars it grants to states along with scaling back on the dollars that it grants. This will be of great assistance for those living in the rural areas of Nevada where the state is the provider of family planning services while offering the valuable prenatal care education and disease education and prevention in the urban centers of our state.
With the recent draconian fetal heartbeat bills passing in Ohio, Georgia and Missouri along with the severe Alabama bill which will outlaw abortion at any stage of a pregnancy and makes no exceptions for rape or incest, the gauntlet has been thrown down by the prolife movement. Make no mistake about the motives of these recent bills which serve as a direct plan to move this issue to the United States Supreme Court in a bid to overturn Roe vs Wade, the landmark 1973 case that legalized abortion across our country. This has been a deliberate and ongoing plan of the conservative base to force their ideology upon everyone and now that the Supreme Court is tilted to a conservative majority by a 5-4 margin, this just might become a reality. The technical definition of the term, fetal heartbeat has been debated by both sides as these recent bills have termed that a fetal heartbeat can be detected at six weeks but this is a fallacy that has been called into question by the medical community as at that stage of the pregnancy, it is not a fetus but an embryo and most women do not realize that they are pregnant at six weeks. The tubular heart belongs to an embryo at six weeks and is not connected to a circulatory system which proves that the language of these fetal heartbeat laws to be misleading and inaccurate.
Along with the introduction of these laws in various states, abortion clinics across the county have been the target of hatred and violence as the debate has reached a fever pitch that threatens the safety of women and ultimately their right to make their own health care decisions. According to the National Abortion Federation, the professional association of abortion providers, picketing and confrontation between both sides of the abortion debate have increased 78 percent over the last year as these bills have been introduced into legislation. Death threats against employees of abortion clinics and brutal harassment of patients has become the new normal of the anti-abortion movement. Sadly when one looks closely at the conservative right wing’s ideology, it can be noted that while they claim to be fighting for the rights of unborn children, monies for education, assistance for children and low income families tend to be cut drastically in budgets at the state and federal level in which there is a conservative majority. Fortunately, organizations including the ACLU and Planned Parenthood are launching counter attacks by filing lawsuits challenging these bills in court as the battle for women’s reproductive rights rages on. In addition to the recent good news in Nevada, the Senate in Illinois has just passed a law declaring a pregnant person has the fundamental right to terminate their pregnancy and stating that a fertilized egg, embryo or fetus does not have independent rights. This bill is expected to be signed by Illinois Governor J.B Pritzker and it will repeal a 1975 law that requires spousal consent, waiting periods, placed restrictions on abortion clinics and outlined criminal procedures for pursuing criminal procedures against abortion providers.
So here we are in 2019, facing a movement that is obsessed with controlling women’s reproductive rights and hell bent on returning this country back to the dark ages. We must come together and protect the rights of women to make their own choices and there can be no alternative outcome to this, protect patient access, engage and spread the word, fight back, expand women’s rights and defeat them at the ballot box. The clock is ticking, ask yourself, which side of history will you be on and more importantly, when all is said and done, what did you do to stop this war on women and their fundamental right to control their bodies and make their own decisions regarding their healthcare.