AP

Nevada senator focuses on abortion in critical November race

Jul 7, 2022, 6:38 PM | Updated: Jul 11, 2022, 12:26 pm

Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Mast attends an event announcing the endorsement of the Reno Fire Chie...

Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Mast attends an event announcing the endorsement of the Reno Fire Chief, International Association of Firefighters and Professional Firefighters of Nevada in Reno, Nev. on Wednesday, July 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Gabe Stern)

(AP Photo/Gabe Stern)

SPARKS, Nev. (AP) — Sandwiched between supporters holding “BANS OFF OUR BODIES” signs and TV cameras on Thursday, U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto portrayed her reelection campaign as a defining moment in a decades-long fight for reproductive freedom, even in pro-abortion rights Nevada.

“I cannot stress this enough. This seat is the pathway to protecting our rights in this country,” she said at a home in the city of Sparks, a Reno suburb. “To preventing a federal abortion ban.”

Cortez Masto is one of several Democrats up for reelection who are pushing reproductive rights to the center of their campaign in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. Her race against Republican Adam Laxalt is expected to be among the most competitive in the country, one of a handful that could determine whether Democrats maintain control of the Senate.

As she courts moderate voters, Cortez Masto’s campaign has noted longstanding support for abortion rights in Nevada. She has repeatedly referenced a 1990 statewide vote that codified abortion protections within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy in Nevada’s state law, with nearly two-thirds voting in support.

Cortez Masto’s messaging represents a shift in strategy for some candidates after decades in which Roe v. Wade was believed to be settled law, said University of Nevada-Las Vegas Professor Rebecca Gill.

“Now that there is this real, significant, palpable threat to access to reproductive health care and abortion, it is certainly possible that some number of that pro-choice majority, may well be motivated to vote on choice issues above other competing concerns.”

Laxalt, Nevada’s former attorney general, has mostly stayed on message — and away from the subject of abortion.

He called the court decision a “historic victory for the sanctity of life,” and leaked audio revealed him calling Roe v. Wade opinion “a joke,” but his campaign has mainly continued to focus 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 fear mongering,” noting that the overturn of Roe v. Wade does not change Nevada law that legalizes abortion.

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

Though much attention is paid to how state governments respond to the 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, said Gill.

Cortez Masto’s target on Thursday was moderate women in Washoe County, a swing county that involves 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 and work here if we have laws in place, like in some states, where I, as a medical professional, can be charged, can be sued, for providing information for basic human healthcare,” said KC Hicks, an emergency room nurse who’s a registered Republican but said she identifies more as an independent. Laws criminalizing healthcare providers who perform abortions will only lead to more staffing shortages, she said, which affects everyone seeking medical care.

Still, the SCOTUS ruling also could require damage control from Democrats, who hold the majority in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

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

It’s a point Cortez Masto circled back to again and again on Thursday: what could happen if she’s replaced in November.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the Republicans in the Senate right now are writing a draft legislation to further restrict abortion in this country,” she said. “To actually try to pass a federal abortion ban. This election, it matters. Nevada is the seat that’s going to stop that.”

When asked what she has done to enshrine federal abortion rights in Congress, Cortez Masto instead pointed to her longstanding support of the 1990 Nevada abortion law. She later cited data federal privacy legislation she introduced that she said would help protect women who receive reproductive health care, and her support for the Affordable Care Act when Republicans tried to repeal it.

___

This story has been corrected to show that a 1990 referendum vote codified the right to abortion in Nevada’s state law. The vote did not codify the right to abortion in the state constitution.

___

Stern is a corps 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 undercovered issues. Follow Stern on Twitter @gabestern326.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

This photo provided by Randy Shannon shows Mooney Falls on the Havasupai reservation outside the vi...

Associated Press

Dozens report illness after trips to waterfalls near Grand Canyon

Dozens of hikers say they fell ill during trips to a popular Arizona tourist destination that features towering blue-green waterfalls deep in a gorge neighboring Grand Canyon National Park.

13 hours ago

Mugshot of Rudy Giuliani, who was processed Monday, June 10, 2024, in the Arizona fake electors cas...

Associated Press

Rudy Giuliani posts $10K cash bond after being processed in Arizona fake electors case

Rudy Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and Donald Trump attorney, was processed Monday in the Arizona fake electors case.

3 days ago

FILE - White House former chief of staff Mark Meadows speaks with reporters at the White House, Wed...

Associated Press

Former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows pleads not guilty in Arizona fake elector case

Former Donald Trump presidential chief of staff Mark Meadows and Trump 2020 Election Day operations director Michael Roman pleaded not guilty Friday in Phoenix to nine felony charges for their roles in an effort to overturn Trump's Arizona election loss to Joe Biden.

7 days ago

deadly heat wave last summer...

Associated Press

After a deadly heat wave last summer, metro Phoenix is changing tactics

Fresh memories of the deadly heat wave last summer have led Arizona authorities to launch new tactics ahead of summer 2024.

17 days ago

A Yuma man has been arrested for allegedly starting a wildfire in a national wildlife preserve near...

Associated Press

Man accused of starting wildfire in national wildlife preserve in Yuma

A Yuma man has been arrested for allegedly starting a wildfire in a national wildlife preserve near the California border.

18 days ago

Colorado River settlement center of new Navajo Nation push...

Associated Press

Tribes say their future is at stake as they push for Congress to consider Colorado River settlement

Navajo officials are celebrating the signing of legislation outlining a proposed Colorado River settlement that would ensure water rights.

21 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinic visits boost student training & community health

Going to a Midwestern University Clinic can help make you feel good in more ways than one.

...

Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.

Nevada senator focuses on abortion in critical November race