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Nevada Medicaid abortion coverage ban challenged in court

A nonprofit that helps people access abortion care is suing Nevada Medicaid in an effort to remove its coverage ban on abortion.

Silver State Hope Fund, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Nevada, filed the lawsuit in Clark County on Monday.

Attorneys for the Silver State Hope Fund argue that the ban on covering abortion by the state’s Medicaid program violates protections enshrined in the Nevada Equal Rights Amendment because it “reinforces inequalities on account of capacity for pregnancy, further entrenching sex inequality.”

The amendment was approved by voters in November and added language to the Nevada constitution prohibiting the denial of individual rights based on a person’s race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, ancestry or national origin.

Abortions are not covered under the state’s Medicaid program unless the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or if the pregnant person’s life is at risk. Approximately 21 percent of the state’s population receives coverage through the program as of June, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

According to the lawsuit, 17 states, including California and Oregon, cover abortion under their state Medicaid programs.

“Nevada’s Medicaid policy has forced organizations like Silver State Hope Fund to step in where the state has failed to provide funding to pregnant Nevadans to cover abortion-related costs, but this shouldn’t be how the system works,” Silver State Hope Fund Acting Executive Director Erin Bilbray-Kohn said in a statement.

The state saw a 37 percent increase in out-of-state patients at its Planned Parenthood health centers since June 2022, when the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and gave individual states the power to regulate abortion. Since then, more than a dozen states have entacted bans or restrictions on abortion.

But abortion within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy is protected in Nevada under a 1990 voter referendum. Gov. Joe Lombardo also signed a bill earlier this summer to codify an executive order signed by former Gov. Steve Sisolak that protects out-of-state abortion patients from prosecution by their home states where the procedure is banned.

A spokesperson with the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services — which administers the state’s Medicaid program — said Tuesday the department does not comment on pending litigation.

Silver State Hope Fund was formed in 2013 and offers assistance for both in-state and out-of-state abortion seekers by helping pay for travel, lodging and child care to help people get an abortion.

Contact Taylor R. Avery at TAvery@reviewjournal.com. Follow @travery98 on X.

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