By Kristen Hackbarth and Bob Conrad | Video by Bob Conrad and Ty O’Neil
RENO — A late Monday leak to Politico of a draft Supreme Court opinion that would strike down federal abortion rights rocked northern Nevadans.
Many said they have spent decades working to support access to the medical procedure. Roe vs. Wade was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 and guaranteed a woman’s right to abortion at up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.
About a hundred demonstrators gathered Tuesday outside the federal courthouse in downtown Reno to protest the potential rollback of federal abortion rights.
The demonstration drew advocates from Planned Parenthood, ACLU Nevada, candidates for local offices, activists and mutual aid groups.
They were pissed off.
“It’s the first time in U.S. history that the Supreme Court has actually taken away a right,” said Holly Wellborn, ACLU of Nevada’s policy director, speaking as if the draft opinion was as good as final. “A lot of people in need of abortion care are very afraid.”
Wellborn said if the opinion was supported by the majority of justices, and Roe vs. Wade is overturned, it would have far reaching effects on other privacy rights that came about from the decision. It would also increase the number of people coming to Nevada, where abortion will remain legal, to get abortions.
Attorney General Aaron Ford said the same during a media call Tuesday afternoon.
“Here in Nevada overturning Roe would not be felt immediately,” he said.
He added that, after Texas passed its recent abortion law restricting the procedure to the first six weeks of pregnancy, he began to hear of women traveling to Nevada to access safe and legal abortion services.
“What we will not do is punish people who come to Nevada to seek medical care,” Ford said.
The increase in people coming to Nevada for abortions could have a negative impact on the state, however, due to an existing shortage of healthcare providers.
“My primary job is for Nevadans to understand that we will fight vigorously…to protect this vital constitutional right,” Ford promised.
Thirteen states have passed “trigger laws” that would immediately ban abortion should Roe vs. Wade be overturned. Another nine states have bans blocked by court order, and many of the states have very few or no exceptions for instances of incest or rape.
Ford added that Nevada is one of a handful of states that has codified abortion rights into law. In 1990 Nevada voters passed a ballot referendum guaranteeing abortion rights, making it impossible for the state’s legislators to remove those rights. Only voters can do so.
Ford urged Nevada voters to be on guard and “fight back efforts to restrict meaningful access to abortion.”
Lily Baran with the ACLU of Nevada said today the possible overturning of the decision signals a need for people to get to know candidates for local offices.
“It couldn’t be more important to vote in your local elections,” she said. “Research these people. Do your due diligence. Please, do your research.”