“It’s the vote of the people within the state of Nevada, and I will support that,” Joe Lombardo, who is generally pro-life, told reporters while campaigning in the state with Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin. “That is an issue that doesn’t need to be in politics.”
Earlier this week, Graham proposed a near-total abortion ban after 15 weeks. The legislation undermined many GOP candidates’ arguments that the future of abortion rights in the U.S. would be decided by individual states, drawing criticism that the veteran senator—an on-again, off-again RINO—was sabotaging Republican efforts to regain control of Congress.
The Supreme Court cited in its Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health ruling the fact that the federal abortion mandate established under Roe v. Wade was unconstitutional because no such “right” had been established under the Constition or by any subsequent legislation.
But it left open the door for debate over the morality—and legality—of abortion itself, also leaving unanswered the question as one of state versus federal sovereignty if Congress were to enact legislation for or against the termination of pre-born children.
For Republicans, the awkward debate now pits those who oppose federal overreach against those who oppose abortion so much that they feel a blanket ban on it is warranted—what many conservatives may regard as a no-win situation.
It also poses needless challenges for GOP candidates in purple battleground states who are trying to use the red wave of backlash against the Biden administration to woo centrist suburban women, libertarians and other voters who may be pro-choice but conservative in other areas.
In a 1990 referendum, Nevada voters codified the right to abortion up to 24 weeks as state law. Any order to further restrict abortion would have to come from a vote of the people, not the state legislature.
Lombardo, who is the Clark County sheriff, has long maintained that as governor he would respect the 1990 vote though he is Catholic and personally opposes abortion.
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 Dobbs decision in June, Nevada’s Democrat Gov. Steve 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.”
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press