RENO, Nev. — The GOP’s nominee for Nevada governor said Thursday he would fight against a national abortion ban if Congress were to pass one.
“It’s the vote of the people within the state of Nevada, and I will support that,” Joe Lombardo, who is generally anti-abortion, told reporters while campaigning in the state with Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin. “That is an issue that doesn’t need to be in politics.”
Nevada voters codified the right to abortion up to 24 weeks into law in a 1990 referendum. Any order to further restrict abortion would have to come from a vote of the people, not the state legislature, unlike in many other states.
Earlier this week, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham proposed a near-total abortion ban after 15 weeks. The legislation undermined many GOP candidates’ arguments this summer that the future of abortion rights in the U.S. would be decided by individual states.
Lombardo, who is the Clark County sheriff, has long maintained that as governor he would respect the 1990 vote though he is Catholic and holds anti-abortion views.
Still, a nationwide abortion ban would supersede Nevada law, and it is unclear how Lombardo could fight one.
Lombardo’s announcement came in contrast to some Republicans who have shied away or supported Graham’s proposal. Republican April Becker, a candidate in Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District, opposes abortion except for instances of rape and incest. But she told NBC News this week that she would vote against a nationwide abortion ban, calling it unconstitutional for Congress to regulate abortion.
Also on Thursday, New Mexico’s Republican governor nominee proposed a referendum that could place new limitations on abortion access.
Following the Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn Roe v. Wade, Nevada Gov. Sisolak signed an executive order saying Nevada will not assist other states that try to prosecute residents who travel to Nevada for abortions. It also ensures medical boards and commissions that oversee medical licenses do not discipline or disqualify doctors who provide abortions.
Though he has stepped back from when he said he would overturn the executive order, Lombardo has maintained that he would “look at it from the lens of being a pro-life governor.”
After Thursday’s rally, Sisolak spokesperson Natalie Gould released a statement saying “Joe Lombardo is lying.”
Lombardo and Youngkin spent the day holding events in both Las Vegas and Reno, where the Virginia governor evoked his own high-profile victory a year ago.
Lombardo attacked the Democratic incumbent Sisolak on education, crime and for closing nonessential businesses early in the COVID-19 pandemic. He talked of further diversifying Nevada’s economy, more power for school decision-making to parents and expanding charter schools.
“This was a movement,” Youngkin said of his victory later on. “And that movement is here now. It’s your turn.”
Stern is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Stern on Twitter @gabestern326