20 April 2023
Ahead of the Senate vote on SJR7, a joint resolution seeking to enshrine abortion protections in the Nevada Constitution, two senators shared their personal experiences with the measure — mirroring conversations taking place across the country.
Sen. Dina Neal (D-North Las Vegas) said the legislation brought flashbacks of fights over the issue between her mother and father when he served in the state Senate. Neal said her mother was anti-abortion, whereas her father supported abortion rights.
“I don’t believe that anyone has the right to play or to be God,” she said.
She added that the legislation also brought up a personal decision she’s never discussed in the Legislature or with anyone outside her family: an abortion she almost had.
“When I wanted to abort my child, my mom, who was a devout Catholic, said no,” Neal said. “And [she] said I needed to give my daughter up for adoption, which I did not and I’m grateful I didn’t.”
Though she ultimately didn’t have an abortion, Neal said she was thankful for the ability to make her own decision.
Her Republican counterpart, Sen. Ira Hansen (R-Sparks), shared his own story.
“This is a highly personal issue for me as well,” Hansen said. “You see, I was conceived in 1960, and my mother was 15 years old when I was born. Three out of my four grandparents sought aggressively to find an abortionist.”
Hansen added that in his opinion, placing the measure in the state Constitution would be akin to playing God.
He said, fortunately for him, there was not someone available legally who could perform an abortion for his mother.
“I stand here before you today as what would have been, had I been conceived after Roe v. Wade, an aborted fetus,” Hansen said. “So when we discuss these things we seem to be talking almost like there’s not a third party in this equation.”
Nevada law protects abortions up to 24 weeks into a pregnancy. Those protections were established by a ballot question approved by voters and have been in place for more than 30 years. Only a direct majority vote of the people could overturn it. Proponents say the proposed constitutional amendment would allow Nevada voters to decide if they want to protect their rights further.
Senators voted to pass the measure along party lines (13-8), with Republicans in opposition. The measure now heads to the Assembly, and if passed out of the Legislature, it must return to lawmakers in 2025 before it goes in front of voters during the 2026 general election.
Neal said the decision to have an abortion is a burden carried forever. But she said she cannot deny the right of citizens and people, such as her daughter, to make their voices heard in an election, even if she finds herself voting in opposition at the ballot box.
“I support a person’s faith and I support a person’s ability to choose for their own health, safety and welfare,” she said while tearing up. “SJR7 is difficult. It draws a line in the sand. But it makes the fight to be had by the voters.”
Editor’s Note: This story appears in Behind the Bar, The Nevada Independent’s newsletter dedicated to comprehensive coverage of the 2023 legislative session. Sign up for the newsletter here.
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