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As Roe V. Wade is overturned, abortion rights activists in Nevada prepare for consequences

There are two demonstrators in the forefront bottom right. They’re holding signs that read “Abortion is healthcare,” and “Not your body, not your decision.”
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio
Demonstrators gather in support of reproductive rights in front of the Bruce R. Thompson Courthouse and Federal Building in Reno, Nev., on May 3, 2022.

KNPR staff who contributed to this reporting include Paul Boger, Lorraine Blanco Moss, Christopher Alvarez and Kristen DeSilva.

In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that gave women across the country the right to seek an abortion. The decision means each state will now decide what kind of restrictions or freedoms it provides to women seeking an abortion.

In Nevada, the ruling won’t have an immediate impact. Abortion protections are codified into state laws. But immediate bans could be triggered now in 26 states, including several that border Nevada.

There’s also the possibility that with the Supreme Court deciding against abortion rights, Congress could try to enact federal anti-abortion laws.

The Wild West Access Fund of Nevada said while they had been preparing for the ruling, "it doesn't make it any less devastating."

Caitlyn Caruso, a board member of the group, said it feels like a gut punch.

“I expect to see an incredible increase in travelers and patients seeking care, and a clinic system -- and our medical system -- in Nevada that might not be prepared to meet that need,” they said. “I don't doubt that it will be long before they start attacking basic rights to contraception, and to other basic reproductive rights and health care needs. I expect we will see a ripple effect that will extend far beyond just access to abortions.”

They said the Wild West Access Fund is working hard to help anyone who needs abortion access. They’ve seen a flood of donations that will sustain them for a long time. The Wild West Access Fund is also actively seeking volunteers.

"We really are just going to see the ramifications of this ruling come out in the days to come and the years to come, unfortunately," they said.

The head of an anti-abortion rights group in Southern Nevada, Nevada Right to Life, said “a bad case” was overruled. Melissa Clement, their executive director, noted nothing changes in Nevada for now. “Medicine, science, all of that has changed since 1973. … And I'm glad that we're going to allow the people to decide.”

She said they “never advocated for criminalizing” abortion when it came to the person getting one, but they support criminalizing the doctor and provider.

“We value the woman, we value the unborn, and we try to help her in every way,” Clement said.

Lindsay Harmon with Planned Parenthood Votes Nevada said they’re horrified.

“We're doing everything we can right now. Our health centers are to accommodate patients in states where abortion is still safe and legal and accessible to accommodate folks from around the nation,” she said.

Harmon said Nevada is also facing a health care shortage across the board.

“We are up against some incredible odds. … This impacts 36 million people of reproductive age across the nation. We do not know to the full extent that this will impact people,” Harmon said.

In Nevada, the right to an abortion was passed by referendum in 1990. And can only be modified by a direct vote of the people.

“As far as the pandemic and the COVID crisis goes, we loved and relied on doctors and nurses in this country,” Harmon said. “And the notion that we would turn our back on them and criminalize them for providing basic health care to women, is beyond egregious, disrespectful.”

Steve from Las Vegas called into the show, sharing his experience with his girlfriend’s abortion when they were young. He said their condom broke, which was unavoidable, and they agonized over the decision.

“It was [an] incredible relief, changed our life. It gave us the freedom again, to realize that, okay, maybe we have to be even more careful from now on. But she didn't go on to have multiple abortions, neither one of us took it lightly, because I don't take these things lightly for any reason,” he said.

Guests: Caitlyn Caruso, Wild West Access Fund board member; Lindsey Harmon, Planned Parenthood Votes executive director; Melissa Clement, Nevada Right to Life executive director.

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