Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo signed legislation Tuesday night that protects abortion rights for out-of-state patients seeking care in-state, as well as in-state providers.
In doing so, Lombardo became one of the few Republican governors to take steps to codify abortion rights, and the only Republican governor from a swing state to do so in recent years. He could indicate a degree of willingness within the party to moderate an issue that has become a political liability following last year’s Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. That decision gave states wide latitude to set abortion policy.
Abortion is already legal in Nevada under an electoral referendum passed decades ago. The new bill signed by Lombardo effectively converted into law an executive order signed last year by the then-governor. Steve Sisolak: The Democrat whom Lombardo narrowly defeated in November. That order barred Nevada officials and agencies from helping with investigations by other states of their own residents who had sought abortion services in Nevada.
The bill also prohibited state medical boards, commissions, and licensing committees from disciplining or disqualifying state physicians who provide abortion services.
During the campaign, Lombardo often made conflicting statements about her stance on specific issues related to abortion. The Republican said his «personal belief is pro-life» and that would support a voter referendum that would change state law to ban abortion after the 13th week of pregnancy. However, he also repeatedly acknowledged that abortion was legal under Nevada law up to the 24th week of pregnancy.
Lombardo joins a small group of Republican governors, including Phil Scott of Vermont and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, who left office in January, who in recent years have enacted laws enshrining abortion protections in their states. His decision to sign the bill also highlights the challenges facing the broader Republican Party regarding reproductive rights.
Following the Supreme Court’s decision last summer to strike down the federal right to abortion, Republicans have been at odds with the issue. Polls show voters broadly in favor of anti-abortion protections, which Democrats placed at the center of their successful bid to hold on to the US Senate and key governorships last year. While the party did lose control of the House, it was by a significantly smaller margin than expected.
The trend persisted until this year, when a liberal Wisconsin judge made abortion rights a centerpiece of her state Supreme Court campaign and won the seat by 11 percentage points in the crucial swing state.
Meanwhile, many Republicans, including several 2024 presidential candidates, have pushed for stricter abortion bans or have proposed bans.
Back in Nevada, the state Republican Party tweeted last month, when the bill advanced through the Democratic-controlled state Senate with the support of two Republican lawmakers, who was «appalled» that the bill would pass with any Republican backing.
A spokesman for the Nevada Republican Party did not immediately respond to questions from NBC News about Lombardo’s decision to sign the bill.
Lombardo’s decision drew applause from Democrats in the state, as well as from state and national abortion rights groups, though many did not mention him by name. Others directed their praise more directly at Nevada Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, a Democrat who sponsored the bill in the chamber.
«IT’S OFFICIAL: SB 131 has been signed into law, which means that everyone seeking abortion services in Nevada, no matter where they’re from, can safely access the care they need without fear of prosecution.» tweeted NARAL Pro-Choice Nevada, the state arm of the national abortion rights group.
«It’s official! Governor Lombardo signed SB131 into law!» tweeted Planned Parenthood Votes Nevada, the Nevada political arm of the national reproductive rights group. The group added that it was «grateful» to Cannizzaro «and his fellow legislators» for «leading the effort to protect Nevada abortion providers and out-of-state patients.»
Cannizzaro, for his part, praised Lombardo in a tweet, writing«I want to thank you for honoring your commitment to ensure that Nevada does not participate in the lawsuits of women who come here to exercise their reproductive rights.»