Nevada senator focuses on abortion in critical November race

SPARKS, Nev. (AP) — Sandwiched between supporters holding “BAN OUR BODIES” signs and television cameras Thursday, U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto described her re-election campaign as a defining moment in a fight of decades for reproductive freedom, including in pro-abortion rights Nevada.

“I cannot stress this enough. This seat is the way to protect our rights in this country,” he said at a home in the city of Sparks, a suburb of Reno. “To prevent a federal abortion ban.”

Cortez Masto is one of several Democrats running for reelection who are putting reproductive rights at the center of their campaign in the wake of the US Supreme Court ruling. overturning Roe v. Wade. His race against Republican Adam Laxalt is expected to be one of the most competitive in the country, one of the few that could determine whether Democrats retain control of the Senate.

While courting moderate voters, the Cortez Masto campaign has noted longstanding support for abortion rights in Nevada. She has repeatedly referred to a 1990 statewide vote that codified abortion protections in the Nevada state constitution, with nearly two-thirds voting in favor.

Cortez Masto’s message represents a change of strategy for some candidates after decades in which it was believed that Roe v. Wade was a resolute law, said Rebecca Gill, a professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

“Now that there is this real, significant and palpable threat to access to reproductive health care and abortion, it is certainly possible that part of that pro-choice majority is motivated to vote on election issues over others. competing concerns.

Laxalt, a former Nevada attorney general, has mostly stayed on message and steered clear of the abortion issue.

He called the court’s decision a “historic victory for the sanctity of life,” and filtered audio revealed that he qualified the opinion in Roe v. Wade as “a joke,” but his campaign has continued to focus primarily on crime, immigration and rising gas prices that are part of what he calls the “Biden-Masto agenda.”

In a statement emailed to The Associated Press on Thursday, Laxalt accused Cortez Masto of “lying and fomenting fear,” noting that the overturning of Roe v. Wade does not change the Nevada law that legalizes abortion.

“And it won’t distract voters from unaffordable prices, rising crime or the border crisis,” he said.

Although much attention is paid to how state governments respond to new abortion guidelines, any national abortion ban would supersede state laws. Communicating that in states where voters tend to support abortion rights like Nevada could make a difference in the general election, Gill said.

Cortez Masto’s target Thursday was moderate women in Washoe County, a swing county that encompasses the city of Reno, suburbs including Sparks and a large rural swath that stretches north to the Oregon border.

“No one is going to want to come to work here if we have laws in place, like in some states, where I, as a medical professional, can be charged, sued, for providing information for basic human health care,” he said. KC Hicks, an emergency room nurse who is a registered Republican but said she identifies more as an independent. Laws that criminalize health care providers who perform abortions will only lead to further staffing shortages, she said, affecting everyone who seeks health care.

Still, the SCOTUS ruling could also require damage control by Democrats, who hold majorities in both the US House and Senate.

“The Democrats who are in Congress now have a ‘They haven’t done anything’ problem,” said Mary Ziegler, a professor at Florida State University School of Law and the author of several books on the legal history of abortion. “So I think some of them are on that case, highlighting what would change if Republicans control the House, the Senate and the White House.”

It’s a point Cortez Masto brooded over and over Thursday: what could happen if she’s replaced in November.

“I have no doubt that Republicans in the Senate right now are writing a bill to further restrict abortion in this country,” he said. “To try to pass a federal abortion ban. This choice matters. Nevada is the seat that is going to stop that.”

When asked what he had done to enshrine the federal right to abortion in Congress, Cortez Masto noted his longstanding support for Nevada’s 1990 abortion law. He later cited federal data privacy legislation he introduced that , he said, would help protect women receiving reproductive health care, and his support for the Affordable Care Act when Republicans tried to repeal it.


Stern is a staff member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercover issues. Follow Stern on Twitter @gabestern326.


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