GOP Candidate for Nevada Governor Walks Back Anti-Choice Comments

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GOP Candidate for Nevada Governor Walks Back Anti-Choice Comments

Nicole Knight

Attorney General Adam Laxalt suggested that, if elected governor, he'd take aim at a voter referendum that protects the right to abortion. Now his campaign says he has "zero interest" in doing just that.

The Republican gubernatorial candidate in Nevada is backing away from an anti-choice stance he took last week, now accusing a local news outlet of mischaracterization.

The furor stems from a comment made by state Attorney General Adam Laxalt. Laxalt suggested that, if elected governor, he’d take aim at a popular voter referendum that protects the right to abortion, telling ABC station KOLO, “We’re going to look in to it.”

The comment has created an uproar in a tight gubernatorial race, prompting a swift “clarification” from Laxalt’s camp.

The seat, held by termed-limited Gov. Brian Sandoval (R), is considered a toss up. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state, with about 650,000 registered Democrats compared to 552,000 registered Republicans, according to the most recent voter rolls. Hillary Clinton won Nevada by 2.4 percentage points in the 2016 presidential election, while Barack Obama won the state by almost 7 percentage points in 2012.

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Laxalt campaign manager Kristin Davison in a statement called the news reports on Laxalt’s comments a “totally false characterization” taken “out of context.” Laxalt has “zero interest in ‘undoing’ the 1990 law in question. None,” she added.

But in the on-camera interview with KOLO, Laxalt said of abortion, “we’re going to have that debate” and said he would “err on the side of life.”

The Nevada ballot measure that Laxalt said he wanted “to look in to,” Question 7, passed in 1990 with 63 percent of the vote. The measure protects the right to abortion up to 24 weeks into a pregnancy. It “will remain in effect and cannot be amended, repealed or otherwise changed, except by a direct vote of the people,” according to language from the state’s voter guide.

Laxalt’s campaign did not respond to requests for an interview or comments. In a statement to KOLO, the campaign took jabs at Laxalt’s gubernatorial opponent, calling the controversy, “an attempt to distract from Steve Sisolak’s extreme view that there should be zero limits on abortion and taxpayer funding for abortion providers.”

Sisolak, the Democratic candidate and chair of the Clark County Commission, said in a forum last month he would not support abortion restrictions, according to the Nevada Independent.

In contrast, Laxalt, in a recent Q & A with the Reno Gazette-Journal, said he supports bans on later abortion care. He sidestepped a question on whether Planned Parenthood should receive federal money, saying the matter is up to the state’s representatives on Capitol Hill.

In response to Laxalt’s statements, NARAL Pro-Choice Nevada announced it will hold a press conference on Tuesday. The reproductive rights organization said its 38,000 grassroots members “will not stand for a candidate for governor who wants to roll back our reproductive rights, including access to abortion.”

“Laxalt trying to walk back his stance on repealing abortion rights after getting negative feedback is perfectly on brand for him,” said Caroline Mello Roberson, NARAL Pro-Choice Nevada state director. “Laxalt claims his words were ‘taken out of context’ but it’s clear that even his own campaign knows Laxalt is an extremist out of touch with every day Nevadans that voted 28 years ago to trust women with their own reproductive health care choices.”

Almost three-quarters of Nevadans identify as pro-choice, according to the organization.

As attorney general, Laxalt signed the state of Nevada on to an amicus brief defending a Texas ban on the most common procedure for second trimester abortions and supporting cases brought by California fake clinics, or crisis pregnancy centers.

The Nevada State Democratic Party last month filed a public records request seeking communications between Laxalt’s office and anti-choice organizations, including National Right to Life, Nevada Right to Life, and the Pro-Life League of Nevada, as the Nevada Independent reported. The records are expected to be released next month.

Nevada Right to Life did not respond to requests for comment.