Yesterday, two Nevada Legislature committees heard two critical health care bills. Not only will these bills protect women’s access to contraception regardless of what Congress does to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but they also aim to expand that access. These hearings kicked off Nevada Women’s Week, during which the Legislature will likely move forward several women’s rights bills.
Last week, the Nevada Legislature’s Democratic leaders announced Nevada Women’s Week (#nvwomensweek) as a special commemoration of Women’s History Month (March) and International Women’s Day this Wednesday. The Assembly will take up SJR 2 ERA ratification later this week. In addition, some policy bills are getting their first hearings.
Kicking off #nvwomensweek were the respective hearings for AB 249 and SB 233 in both houses’ Health and Human Services Committees. Both bills aim to protect contraception access from any possible ACA repeal. Both bills also allow women with valid prescriptions to obtain up to 12 month supplies of contraception from their pharmacists.
Opponents claim these bills open the door to taxpayer funded abortions and attacks on religious liberty. During the SB 233 hearing, Senator Julia Ratti (D-Sparks) countered the abortion attack in stating, “There is nothing in this bill that speaks to abortion.” Ratti also summarized why thousands of Nevada women need affordable, accessible contraception.
“It’s good for patients, and it’s good for taxpayers. If we invest in prevention, it saves money down the road.” – Senator Julia Ratti
Bonnie McDaniel testified against AB 249 in Las Vegas. She wasn’t convinced by the bill’s proponents. “I’m not against contraception. I’m against abortion.”
McDaniel and other opponents cited the 2014 Hobby Lobby v. Burwell U.S. Supreme Court decision in declaring these bills as attacks on individuals’ religious freedom. Proponents counter that the bills are legal protections to women’s health care access, even post Hobby Lobby. Assembly Member Teresa Benitez-Thompson (D-Reno) referred to this and abortion related attacks on her bill, AB 249, as “red herrings”.
Jenny Knight testified in favor of both bills. She had a concise response to McDaniel’s and other opponents’ claim that AB 249 and SB 233 mandate taxpayer funds for abortions.
“[Contraception] prevents pregnancies, thereby preventing abortions.” – Jenny Knight
Knight has used contraception to treat severe ovarian cysts. Her contraception is now covered by her health insurance thanks to the ACA (aka Obamacare). Knight stated “it could just be ugly” if she loses contraception coverage due to ACA repeal.
Knight also responded to opponents’ claims that these bills violate others’ religious freedom.
“Does someone’s god believe this is a risk to take? I can’t take that risk.” – Jenny Knight
Both bills may pass their respective committees later this week. Democratic leaders consider these and the other women’s rights bills as a critical part of their Nevada Blueprint platform.