Attorney General Ford Releases Transcript of Remarks on Recent Developments in Abortion Law

May 3, 2022

Carson City, NV Today,Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford released a transcript of the remarks he gave to the press regarding his office’s position on the recently leaked draft opinion by the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land for 49 years. Because of Roe v. Wade, generations of women have been able to access safe, legal medical care and make decisions about their bodies and their futures. We do not know if the draft opinion leaked yesterday will be the opinion that’s actual issued by the Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Roberts has confirmed, however, that the the document is authentic, but he’s also said that it does not represent a “decision by the Court.”

What we do know is what we have always known, is that the very existence of Roe v. Wade as precedent is at stake. The right to an abortion, and a constitutional guarantee of privacy and bodily autonomy, has been under sustained attack for decades, and this decision, if made official, will dismantle the nationwide guarantee to that right. These ongoing attacks are exactly why I have joined numerous amicus briefs protecting abortion rights. We cannot, and will not, stop fighting for this right. Our office joined an amicus brief in this very case -- Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization – regarding an abortion ban in Mississippi.

If the Supreme Court does issue an opinion like the one that has been reported in the news, it means that Roe v. Wade is overturned and there is no federal constitutional right to an abortion. It means that states will have the ability to determine whether or how to regulate abortions under their state laws.

Here in Nevada, overturning Roe would not be felt immediately. Voters in Nevada guaranteed a right to a legal abortion until 24 weeks of pregnancy by referendum in 1990.

This law, codified in NRS 442.250, cannot be changed or repealed in Nevada unless voters pass a referendum to change or repeal it.

Let me be crystal clear to any Nevadan who is listening to this message: If you need reproductive health services, make that appointment with your doctor. We will protect your right to make decisions with your doctor about what is best for your health, your family and your future.

This does not mean that we should not be concerned. Indeed, there are those who would say that any focus on access to abortion care in Nevada if Roe v. Wade is overturned is nothing but “gaslighting.” But they’re simply trying to lull other Nevadans into complacency. For example, a federal ban on abortion could supersede our law. Or a future governor’s administration and/or state legislature hostile to abortion rights could work to find ways to restrict access within the framework approved in the referendum.

There are, in fact, some congresspersons and senators to this day working to pass a national law affecting the right an abortion. We’d be naïve to believe that certain folks here in Nevada aren’t likewise looking for ways to undermine the right, our laws notwithstanding. So, again, let’s not be complacent.

In fact, instead we have to be on guard against any attempts to make Nevada’s right to an abortion a right only on paper and fight back efforts to restrict meaningful access to abortion.

Some states are following in our footsteps to codify abortion rights into law. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced he will push for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing abortion rights. In other states, things look different. Millions of women could lose their rights. Some states could entirely ban abortions in any and all circumstances. That means that there would be no constitutional right to an abortion in those states, even before viability. No right to an abortion in a case of rape. No right to an abortion if a woman’s life is at risk. No right to an abortion if there is a fetal death in the womb.

In Missouri earlier this year, a bill was proposed that would have banned abortions in the case of ectopic pregnancies. To be clear – ectopic pregnancies are never viable and often fatal for the patient. Though that language was removed after public backlash, it’s an extremely concerning example of where these laws could take us.

None of this is an exaggeration. Thirteen states have already passed “trigger laws” that would automatically ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned.  Nine states have abortion bans that are currently blocked by court order but could take effect if Roe is overturned. Many of these laws have very few or no exceptions for the safety of the woman, fetal death in the womb or rape.

Even though Nevada law protects the right to a legal abortion, these bans will affect Nevada. It already is happening. Once Texas passed its six-week abortion ‘bounty’ ban, we started hearing reports from abortion providers here that people were traveling from other states so that they could receive legal, professional and safe medical care.

This is exactly why I joined amicus briefs in cases where abortion rights are at risk in other states – because banning safe and legal abortions in other states will affect Nevada’s health care system.

What we will not do is punish people for coming to Nevada to seek medical care. We will not work against people in the midst of one of the most vulnerable times of their life.

We do not know what this draft decision means for other constitutional rights that rely on the constitutional rights to privacy, bodily autonomy and personal liberty that have been so critical to the prior decisions on this issue.

The draft opinion states that it is limited to abortion, but it heavily emphasizes that Roe should be overturned because abortion is not explicitly addressed in the Constitution.

Many of our most basic constitutional rights are not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. They are rather implicit, part of the bundle of rights protected by the Constitution’s guarantees of privacy, personal liberty, equal protection and due process.

For example, we do not know how this decision could be used in future cases that address the right to access birth control. The case that allowed unmarried women the right to access birth control was decided just one year before Roe v. Wade and relied on a similar understanding of Constitutional rights.

We do not know how this decision could affect legal access to reproductive technology, such as IVF. We do not know how this decision could affect the right to same-sex marriage or even interracial marriage. So many SCOTUS decisions, such as Texas v. Lawrence, Obergefell v. Hodges, Griswold v. Connecticut, Loving v. Virginia – all of these cases rely on the constitutional right to substantive due process.

The constitutional right to be free from the government’s undue restrictions on how adults can live their private lives and determine the course of their own futures. That liberty, the power to make choices about your own family is exactly what is at stake. I believe this is why Nevada voters in almost every county approved the 1990 referendum that guarantees abortion rights. Without Roe v. Wade’s protections against undue burdens on the right to an abortion, Nevada’s law could be at risk for new laws that make it difficult for women to exercise their rights.

We also must work to expand access to health care services. You can’t exercise your right to see a doctor if there is no doctor or you can’t afford to get health care.

This is not limited to abortion services. As a state, we have so much work to do to improve access to contraception and prenatal care, as well as address maternal mortality and domestic violence, which is a leading cause of death for pregnant women.

My office will continue to play our part, fighting back attacks on abortion rights, rights to birth control access, and rights for LGBTQ people – all of these core constitutional rights that have been targeted by the same forces advocating for the end of Roe v. Wade and the constitutional right to bodily autonomy. For example, my office led an amicus effort against the Trump Administration’s Title X Rule, which resulted in a massive decline of family planning services, prenatal care, and preventive health services for low-income women.

My office also joined an effort to fight the Trump Administration’s attempt to allow health insurance companies to deny coverage for birth control.

As your Attorney General, I will continue to use the weight of this office to defend your constitutional rights and our state laws that guarantee your freedom.