Legislators want to double down on contraception access after court rulings
Nevada lawmakers are considering a bill that would prohibit any government limitations or requirements that may block patients’ access to birth control and reproductive health services.
Assemblywoman Selena Torres (D-Las Vegas) said the Legislature “must provide clarity and assurance” to Nevadans that access to reproductive health care and contraception is protected, especially in the wake of recent federal judicial decisions including last week’s ruling to suspend the sale of one of two drugs used together to cause an abortion and a decision by a Texas federal judge last December to strike down a federal provision allowing minors to access contraception without parental approval.
“We have consistently had access to contraception in the state of Nevada. Right now, there aren't barriers to access contraception — and we should continue to not have them,” Torres said Monday during a hearing for her bill, AB383, in the Assembly Health and Human Services Committee.
AB383 would create the Right to Contraception Act, which would guarantee Nevadans the right to contraception and protect health care providers who administer and prescribe it, as well as aim to expand availability of affordable care.
It also prevents governmental entities from singling out or substantially burdening access to reproductive health services, which are defined in the bill as “medical, surgical, counseling, or referral services relating to the human reproductive system.” The bill includes services for pregnancy, contraception, miscarriage, in vitro fertilization, the termination of a pregnancy or “any procedure or care found by a competent medical professional to be appropriate based upon the wishes of a patient and in accordance with the laws of this state.”
Torres’ bill comes as lawmakers are also considering a proposed constitutional amendment, SJR7, to guarantee “a fundamental right to reproductive freedom.” But putting that measure in a more permanent place in the constitution would require passage through two legislative sessions, then a vote of the people, while a bill such as Torres’ would only need legislative approval in one session and the governor’s signature to become law.
“The reproductive rights landscape is in uncharted territory making statutory solutions like AB383 an important stopgap as we work toward a constitutional amendment that will let Nevadans affirm once and for all whether or not these reproductive freedoms should have the highest level of legal protection in our state constitution,” said Alexa Solis, the strategic programs manager for Planned Parenthood, in a statement.
Bill proponents pointed to the Friday ruling from a federal judge in Texas that invalidated the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone, an abortion drug, on the argument that the agency overlooked safety risks. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) said over the weekend that “the next step is contraception,” echoing concerns from advocates as some states have taken steps to cut Medicaid funding for emergency contraception and IUDs.
“Last week's unprecedented ruling out of Texas shows us just how urgent any and all protections are and we're grateful that our elected officials are taking these threats seriously,” Solis said.
Nevada lawmakers in recent years have expanded access to birth control. During the 2021 session, lawmakers passed SB190 to increase contraception accessibility and allow certain neighborhood pharmacists to provide birth control without a prescription from a doctor. And in 2017, lawmakers authorized health care providers to prescribe a 12-month supply at a time to “make it more convenient for Nevadans to access consistent care,” Torres said.
“But today we find ourselves in a tumultuous and uncertain point in the progress we have come so far in making, as we approach nearly a year of the overturning of Roe,” Torres said, referring to last June’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to reverse Roe v. Wade. In spite of that decision, Nevada’s abortion laws remained unchanged on account of a 1990 ballot measure that allows for abortions within 24 weeks of pregnancy.
“Nevadans are frustrated, confused and anxious that just one more judicial decision can overturn health care services that they use on a daily basis,” she added.
The bill was met with some opposition from individuals opposing over-the-counter access to medication that triggers an abortion, but the bill does not name any specific medications.
“What this bill really strives to do is ensure that governments are not burdening our access to reproductive health care,” Torres said.