Jim Hartman: GOP’s abortion law blunder

Jim Hartman

Jim Hartman
Courtesy Photo

If the 2022 election is a referendum on Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, then his re-election appears vulnerable to a credible Republican challenger.

In his announcement for governor, former U.S. Sen. Dean Heller summarized the case against the incumbent. Heller blamed Sisolak for putting Nevada “at the top of every bad list in America, including for unemployment rates, crime rates, graduation rates and suicide rates.”

Indeed, Sisolak’s Draconian lockdown orders in March 2020 had a devastating impact on Nevada’s economy.

In February 2020, Nevadans were celebrating an all-time record low unemployment rate of 3.6%. By April 2020, Nevada set a record for the highest unemployment rate ever recorded — 30.1%. That’s higher than in the Great Depression.

Nevada had the dubious distinction this July and August of having the highest unemployment rate in the entire nation (7.7%).

Casinos ordered closed in March 2020 remained closed until June 2020. When finally reopened, Sisolak’s arbitrary capacity orders wildly fluctuated from 50% to 25%, then back to 50%.

The governor’s lockdowns destroyed many “non-essential” small businesses, closing them permanently.

Sisolak’s onerous mask mandates in traditionally libertarian Nevada contributed to angry recall efforts against him. His current policy again requires indoor masking for all people over 9, regardless of vaccination status.

Critics note that even California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom has a more limited indoor masking requirement. It applies only to the unvaccinated.

Crime is up in Nevada; statistics released by Las Vegas Metro show homicides increased 60% over last year. Police say 80 homicides have occurred in Las Vegas so far in 2021, compared to 50 in 2020

In education, a Reno Gazette Journal analysis of K-12 proficiency exams and state financial reports found Nevada’s students are doing worse on most tests than they did in 2000, when the state spent 79 percent less per pupil.

Under Sisolak directives, Clark County schools remained closed for an entire school year, with a resulting 21 student suicides reported.

So, credible Republican challengers, including Heller and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, are on political high ground against Sisolak in 2022.

But asked if he would support an abortion law like in Texas that allows private citizens to sue people who “aids or abets” an abortion after six weeks, Heller said “I like what Texas did.”

Later, Heller sought to clarify his comments about the Texas legislation, adding that he would want a ban on abortion to include exceptions for rape or incest.

The Texas statute clearly violates the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade (1973) and Casey (1992) precedents by making abortion illegal during the first trimester without exceptions for rape or incest — and in a slippery way to avoid federal judicial review.

Most laws delegate enforcement to public officials. This one delegates exclusive enforcement to private citizens. Citizens who win their civil lawsuits are entitled to at least $10,000 per abortion.

The law sets a terrible precedent. Could New York deputize private lawsuits against gun owners?

Polls consistently show Nevadans support abortion rights by significant margins, and Nevada voters in 1990 reaffirmed the legality of abortion up to 24 weeks by 63.5 percent of the vote.

Gallup’s June poll found 58 percent of Americans opposed overturning Roe v. Wade, with 32% in favor. Similarly, 58 percent opposed the abortion restrictions in the Texas law.

Two-thirds of voters (65 percent) in a September Fox News poll want to keep the Roe abortion decision in place, a record high. Over half of Republicans (53 percent) join majorities of Democrats (77 percent) and independents (64 percent) in saying Roe should remain the law.

In 2014, Nevada’s GOP delegates voted to exclude language opposing abortion from the party platform. Pro-Choice Gov. Brian Sandoval led a Republican sweep of statewide and legislative offices that year.

Texas Republicans have blundered into handing Democrats a potent issue for 2022.

Jim Hartman is an attorney residing in Genoa. E-mail lawdocman1@aol.com.

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