Cannizzaro rebuts critics who say her bill promotes 'abortion tourism'

Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller

Entertainment, gambling and tourism are among the top drivers of Nevada’s economy, but Sen. Jeff Stone (R-Henderson) expressed concerns that one more might take hold: abortion tourism.

The comments came Tuesday during a hearing of SB131, a bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) that seeks to codify former Gov. Steve Sisolak’s executive order protecting out-of-state abortion seekers in Nevada and those providing reproductive care, regardless of other state policies. 

“I don’t think you want Nevada to be known for this part of our economy. We’re certainly entertainment; we’re sports,” Stone said. “Do we want to include tourism for abortions to be a part of our stereotype here in Nevada?”

Cannizzaro fired back, saying that using the word “tourism” to describe the act of seeking an abortion or reproductive care outside of a person’s home state is “problematic.”

“This is someone who is seeking access to care that they cannot get somewhere else. Those are desperate situations,” Cannizzaro said. “A woman, or even a minor, is not seeking reproductive health care as a basis for tourism.”

Cannizzaro said the bill comes in response to laws passed by other states preventing patients and providers from accessing care that involves an abortion. She cited cases such as women in Texas and other states who were denied care for a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy because doctors and hospitals feared legal repercussions. 

Some opponents of the legislation cited concerns, without evidence, that the proposed law may lead to increased sex trafficking, but Cannizzaro called the argument a distraction.

“This bill is not a sex trafficking bill. It doesn’t create abortion tourism, which I personally find offensive,” Cannizzaro said. “This is a place for patients and providers to know that they can continue to do what is legal under Nevada law without being prosecuted for it.”

The legislation is likely to be the first significant test of Gov. Joe Lombardo’s stance on abortion, which shifted throughout the election cycle. Most recently, Lombardo signaled he would support the measure, telling Nevada Public Radio he would sign it as long as it was a “clean bill” that focused only on preventing state agencies from cooperating with other states wanting to prosecute someone for receiving reproductive care in Nevada.

As of Monday, Sisolak’s executive order protecting out-of-state abortion seekers is still in effect, but Cannizzaro said that its future is not guaranteed.

“Patients [who] are coming to Nevada and our health care providers operating here can’t rely on an executive order,” Cannizzaro said. “They cannot rely on something that tomorrow or this afternoon, frankly, could be gone.”

Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in Behind the Bar, The Nevada Independent’s newsletter dedicated to comprehensive coverage of the 2023 Legislature. Sign up for the newsletter here.


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