Nevada Republican House candidates pan Graham’s abortion ban bill; Laxalt mum

By: - September 13, 2022 4:41 pm

“If we take back the House and the Senate, I can assure you we’ll have a vote on our bill,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said. (Graham Senate office photo)

Two Nevada candidates for Congress Tuesday said they opposed a federal abortion ban bill proposed by South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham. A third Republican in a competitive House seat did not respond to requests for comment, and nor did Republican Senate candidate Adam Laxalt.

“If we take back the House and the Senate, I can assure you we’ll have a vote on our bill,” Graham said after announcing the measure. “If the Democrats are in charge, I don’t know if we’ll ever have a vote on our bill.” 

Graham’s bill, which came as a surprise when he announced it during a press conference Tuesday, would ban abortion in the U.S. after 15 weeks. The ban would nullify Nevada law, which permits abortion until 24 weeks of pregnancy, and later if the mother’s health is threatened. 

A staffer who fielded a call to Laxalt’s campaign said she was unaware of the candidate’s  position on the Senate proposal. The campaign’s communications director did not respond to calls Tuesday.

In an August op-ed in the Reno Gazette Journal, Laxalt wrote that he would support a state referendum in Nevada limiting abortion to the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. In that same column, Laxalt declared he does not support a federal ban on abortion, saying that would “contradict what I have argued for my entire adult life and what the Supreme Court just ordered — to return the issue to the people.”

Opposing Graham’s bill would put Laxalt in the same position as that expressed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican senators Tuesday. 

“I think most of the members of my conference prefer that this be dealt with at the state level,” McConnell said during a press conference. 

“I will block any efforts in the Senate to advance a nationwide abortion ban — full stop,” Laxalt’s opponent, U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, tweeted Tuesday after the announcement. “We don’t need any more male politicians telling women what we can and can’t do with our own bodies.”

Two of Nevada’s three Republicans challenging incumbent Democrats in competitive races said they opposed Graham’s measure.  

“Given the recent Supreme Court decision returning the issue of abortion regulation to the states, I do not believe it is constitutional for abortion policy to be determined at the national level; therefore, I would oppose Senator Graham’s legislation,” April Becker, the Republican challenging Susie Lee in congressional district 3, said in a statement

“The people of Nevada have spoken,” said Mark Robertson, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Dina Titus in CD 1. “I will oppose any bill in Congress that takes power from the People and gives it to the Federal government.”

Sam Peters, the Republican candidate in CD 4 who is challenging Rep. Steven Horsford, did not respond to a request for comment. 

‘Hot potato’

The move by Graham is likely to catapult the issue to the top of voter concerns in states such as Nevada, where abortion rights were already codified. 

“I think the Republicans are probably putting that forward in order to motivate their base, perhaps in some of the states like Nevada where there’s no opportunity for abortion to be limited in any way,” said longtime Nevada pro-life advocate Janine Hansen, who called the ban a “very reasonable compromise. I’m sure it will motivate the other side, as well.” 

A statewide opinion poll in 2021 found Nevadans support choice by a margin of two to one.  

The numbers are the same nationally. 

“This is a hot potato and Lindsey just chucked it right at his GOP colleagues,” said Rebecca Gill, associate professor of Political Science at UNLV. “The timing of this seems very, very strange and it seems like not a particularly good strategy for any of the Republicans who are challenging vulnerable Democrats.”

The Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act has no chance of coming to the floor under Democrats, and is unlikely to become law even if Republicans take control of Congress, said Gill. 

“People who are going to be up again in two years, they don’t want to have to deal with this because we can already see just from the states that have these severe restrictions, how devastating it is for people who need abortions, but also those who need miscarriage health care,” she said. “And it’s just going to get worse.” 

“If a national abortion ban passes, I will immediately direct my administration to not comply and pursue every legal option available to protect Nevadans’ statutory right to an abortion – including by codifying my executive order in a second term to protect providers and out-of-state patients who travel to the Silver State for reproductive care,” said Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat. 

Sisolak’s Republican opponent, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, did not respond to requests for comment on Graham’s bill. 

Since the Dobbs ruling in June, even vociferous opponents of abortion have backed away as the realities of severe restrictions affect constituents. 

When asked during a televised debate whether he’d support restrictions on morning after pills, waiting periods before ending a pregnancy and parental notification laws, Lombardo responded “Yes, absolutely.”   

He has since backed off

“Should there be a National law prohibiting abortion beyond 15 weeks, this law would be declared unconstitutional under Dobbs,” said Republican candidate for attorney general, Sigal Chattah. “Therefore, as a lawyer, I would follow Dobbs decision on this matter until Dobbs is overturned.” 

“Put simply, if Congress passes a national ban, we will see them in court,” said Chattah’s Democratic opponent, Attorney General Aaron Ford.  

States Newsroom D.C. bureau reporter Jeniffer Shutt contributed to this report.

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Dana Gentry
Dana Gentry

Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.