Editors Note: This story has been updated to include Sheriff Joe Lombardo’s comments. (See below)
The only confirmed gubernatorial debate ahead of the November election between Steve Sisolak and Republican challenger Sheriff Joe Lombardo aired last night on Channel 3 in Las Vegas and Channel 4 in Reno. The debate was held by the Nevada Independent at their annual IndyFest event and moderated by the Indy’s CEO, Jon Ralston. A detailed summary of the 90 minute debate can be found here. The Globe will provide highlights of the debate in a following piece.
Ralston covered many topics: education, crime, the economy, inflation, taxes, election integrity, affordable housing, and abortion. Towards the end of the debate, Ralston grilled Sisolak on his response to pandemic and Lombardo’s accusations of corruption and cronyism.
What has yet to be highlighted, even in the Nevada Independent’s summary, is an answer given by Governor Sisolak when asked by Ralston if he supports parental notification for abortions. The exchange is at the 6:10 mark in the third segment of the debate.
Ralston: “Do you support parental notification?”
Sisolak: “No, I do not and I can tell you why I don’t. A lot of the parental notification ones (abortions), unfortunately, these girls are subjected to incest, to family situations, they have got familial situations where the response from the parent could be so extreme that it could put the woman’s life in danger and that is between that woman and her doctor.”
According to a 2005 Guttmacher Institute analysis of data from two surveys, one percent of women who had obtained abortions “indicated that they had been victims of rape, and less than half a percent said they became pregnant as a result of incest.” The two surveys involved a total of about 12,000 women, a fifth of whom were 19 or younger. Guttmacher also reports that 36 states have laws requiring parental involvement in a minor’s decision to obtain an abortion and 14 states permit a minor to obtain an abortion in cases of abuse, assault, incest or neglect. Currently in Nevada, no parental notification or involvement is required when a minor seeks an abortion.
Parental notification is obviously specific to minors (those under 18) seeking an abortion. In Sisolak’s answer, “girls” suddenly become “women” and the young victim’s rapist (an uncle, brother, father, cousin, etc) is protected–by the absence of notification–to potentially offend again. In Nevada, the age of consent is 16. Anyone who engages in a sexual act with someone younger than 16 could be prosecuted for statutory rape.
Additionally, Nevada state law doesn’t explicitly or clearly give minors permission to get a prescription for birth control without a parent or guardian’s permission, yet minors in Nevada must have parental permission to receive a Covid-19 vaccination, an aspirin from a school nurse, a tattoo, or use of a tanning bed.
Lombardo voiced his support for parental notification, with the exception of rape and incest, and reiterated that neither he or Governor Sisolak could change Nevada law.
Nevada law allows for abortions up to 24 weeks and also requires that abortions be performed by licensed physicians. In situations where abortions take place after 24 weeks, the law states that the procedure must take place at a licensed hospital.
Although abortion is not constitutionally protected in the Silver State, it is protected by state statute. In 1990, Nevada voters approved Question 7 by 63.5 percent of the vote. With this vote, the Nevada Legislature may not in any way alter the law, unless it is first repealed by state voters in a direct vote.
The Globe has reached out to the Lombardo campaign to provide comment on this exchange between Ralston and Sisolak and further clarification of his position on parental consent. The Globe will update the story if and when a comment is received.
After publishing, GOP Challenger Joe Lombardo told The Globe: “Like most Nevadans, I’m a strong supporter of parental notification, and I believe the health and safety of minors is a critical component of any healthcare policy. Steve Sisolak’s extremist stance is out of touch with what the majority of Nevadans believe.”
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