What happens when women rule

The 32 female members of the Nevada Legislature photographed in Carson City, Nevada, on February 4, 2019. They are the first female majority Legislature in the US.

Swanee Hunt, former US ambassador to Austria, is founder of the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and founder of Seismic Shift, an initiative dedicated to increasing the number of women in high political office. She is also the author of "Rwandan Women Rising." The views expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion on CNN.

(CNN)The Nevada legislature, which concluded its biennial session on Monday, is making history — and not just statistically. At 52%, this state house is the first to become majority female, and what a difference that is proving to make, particularly when it comes to women's reproductive rights.

Take the recent rash of "heartbeat bills" passed by male-dominant legislatures in a growing number of states this past month. They include Georgia, Missouri and, most recently, Louisiana. The restrictions are medieval, forcing women and girls to become mothers once a fetal heartbeat is detected (at about six to eight weeks).
The penalties for having an abortion — or carrying one out — are worse. In Louisiana, a woman's reward for being the victim of a sexual assault: bearing and raising her rapist's child. In Alabama, abortion has been almost entirely banned, including in cases of rape and incest. In Georgia, once a fetal heartbeat is detected, the unborn child is considered a "natural person," leaving women who get an abortion and doctors who perform abortions open to prosecution. Doctors in Alabama could face up to 99 years in prison for carrying out a woman's decision to terminate her pregnancy.
    In striking contrast, Nevada has just voted to protect a woman's private choice over fears the Supreme Court may overturn Roe v. Wade. Last week, Gov. Steve Sisolak signed the "Trust Nevada Women Act," which removes criminal penalties for abortions and other barriers to reproductive health care. Other recent Nevada bills aim to protect women, like one passed by the state Senate which would provide a path for the removal of state and local officials for sexual harassment and other "bad behavior."
    Colorado, second to Nevada with 47% women in the state legislature, has passed a bill (with three female sponsors and one male sponsor) moving the state toward paid family leave. Another bill (with four female sponsors) establishes an action plan to reduce greenhouse gas.
    I've worked in more than 60 countries and I know that the correlation between disempowered women and stagnant social progress can't be explained with "Well, in our culture...." From Korea to Congo to Colombia, the connection is the same. On the other side of the ledger is Iceland. In 2017, with 48% of its parliament women, it legally mandated equal pay in the public and private sectors.
    What woman presidential candidates are facing