NRS 201.120 is the Nevada law that makes illegal abortions a felony. Licensed physicians are allowed to perform abortions and prescribe the abortion pill. Otherwise, terminating a pregnancy is forbidden. The statute states:
A person who:
1. Prescribes, supplies or administers to a woman, whether pregnant or not, or advises or causes her to take any medicine, drug or substance; or
2. Uses or causes to be used, any instrument or other means,
to terminate a pregnancy...is guilty of abortion.
Below our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys answer frequently-asked-questions about illegal abortions in Nevada law.
1. What is an illegal abortion?
Roe v. Wade recognizes a general constitutional right to abortion in the U.S. Individual states may regulate the means. In Nevada, doctors may perform abortions within 24 weeks post-fertilization. After that, they may perform abortions only in cases of life or health endangerment.
Lawful abortions are prescribed by licensed doctors and performed in accordance with standard medical practices. Three examples of illegal abortions include:
- A pregnant woman taking RU486 pills she stole from her pharmacy.
- A back-alley "healer" trying to induce an abortion through herbs.
- A pregnant woman's boyfriend performing a wire hanger abortion.
NRS 201.120 targets patients seeking illegal abortions and people helping them obtain them. It does not matter if the mother then carries the baby to term. Nor does it matter if the woman turns out not to have been pregnant. Merely attempting to have an abortion without a doctor is unlawful.1
2. What are the penalties?
- 1 - 10 years in Nevada State Prison, and
- Up to $10,000 in fines (at the judge's discretion)2
Meanwhile, Nevada makes it a gross misdemeanor to:
- Make, sell, or give away any instrument or drug to induce a miscarriage;2
- Conceal the birth of a baby by disposing of its corpse;3 or
- Advertise services, medicines, or devices to cause a miscarriage or premature birth.4
Gross misdemeanor penalties include:
- Up to 364 days in jail, and/or
- Up to $2,000 in fines
Penalties aside, illegal abortions can be fatal to the mother. And fetuses that do not die can sustain permanent injuries.
Also see our article on killing an unborn quick child (NRS 200.210).
3. What are the defenses?
Various defenses exist to fight illegal abortion charges. Three are:
- False accusations. Perhaps the woman was accused of an illegal abortion by an angry spouse who wished to keep the baby. Or perhaps a woman regretted having an abortion and accused her partner of slipping her the abortion pill. The defense attorney would work to find evidence of the accusers' motivations. Examples include angry voicemails, text messages, or eyewitness accounts. This may persuade the D.A. to drop the charges.
- Entrapment. Undercover police may contact suspected underground abortionists or women seeking abortions. But police are not allowed to pressure ("entrap") suspects into violating NRS 201.120 when they are not predisposed to it. If the police crossed the line into entrapment, the charge should be dismissed.
- Police misconduct: Police need probable cause to believe a crime occurred in order to perform a search. If the police lacked probable cause, then a defense attorney can file a motion to suppress. This motion asks the court to disregard evidence found from their illegal search. If the court grants the motion, the whole case may be dismissed for lack of proof.
In every case, prosecutors have the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is necessary to sustain a conviction. As long as the defense attorney can raise this reasonable doubt, criminal charges should not stand.
4. What are the immigration consequences?
Illegal abortion crimes may be deportable for non-citizens. But a good lawyer might be able to persuade the D.A. to reduce the charges. Then the defendant may be able to avoid removal from the U.S.
5. Can the record be sealed?
Yes. An illegal abortion conviction can be sealed ten years after the case ends. But if the charges get dropped, the defendant can petition for a record seal without delay.6
The record sealing process itself can take up to a year. Learn about how to get a Nevada criminal record seal.
Accused of violating NRS 201.120? Contact our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673). Consultations are free. We can often negotiate a favorable resolution without litigation. But we will fight for an acquittal at trial if necessary.
Are you seeking an abortion and need help? Call the National Abortion Federation (NAF) hotline for information at 1-800-772-9100, or for referrals call NAF at 1-877-257-0012. Or else contact Planned Parenthood at 1-800-230-7526.
In California? See our article on abortion laws in California.