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GOP Senate candidate Brown refers women to crisis pregnancy centers on campaign website

Brown stands alone among swing state Senate Republicans in listing these centers, which try to persuade women considering abortion to continue their pregnancy.
Gabby Birenbaum
Gabby Birenbaum
Election 2024Elections

When Sam Brown and his wife Amy sat down with NBC News last month to discuss an abortion Amy had before meeting her husband, the Republican front-runner urged politicians to “lead with compassion” on the issue.

Brown, who is running for U.S. Senate in Nevada, stated in the interview that he would not support a national abortion ban and that although he was “pro-life,” he believed in exceptions for rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother. On X, he encouraged women to share their stories in the hopes that that conversation, rather than scare tactics, would lead the discourse on an issue that’s become hyper-political.

“Women should always feel loved [and] supported,” Brown said in the interview. “Part of that support is knowing that there are other options beyond abortion.”

But in spite of acknowledging that there are circumstances in which an abortion may be appropriate, a list of “RESOURCES FOR WOMEN” appeared on Brown’s campaign website around the time of the interview that directs users to crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) — organizations that often oppose abortion across the board, do not refer women for the procedure and sometimes promote debunked theories that the procedure can contribute to future infertility or breast cancer.

Instead, the centers offer parenting classes, referrals to adoption agencies and, sometimes, a place for pregnant women to stay and transportation to and from medical appointments. They often offer counseling, including for women who have had an abortion, and Bible studies.

Their proponents argue that they serve women in need, offering medical and spiritual support and, as Brown argues for, providing information about alternatives to abortion. They argue that they help women make informed choices away from the “abortion industry” that they believe profits off of women who have unplanned pregnancies.

In a statement to The Nevada Independent, Brown’s campaign said listing information about the centers on his website fit into Brown’s policy of injecting compassion into the abortion debate and that clinics such as Planned Parenthood give a “false illusion” that abortion is the only option.

"As Sam has stated previously, women deserve to be treated with the utmost empathy and respect when they're facing an unplanned pregnancy,” said Kristy Wilkinson, Brown’s communications director. “Our Resources for Women tab exists because, to Sam and Amy, respect means providing women with as much information on their options as possible.” 

Critics of the centers, including major medical associations and lawmakers including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), say their intentional marketing to women interested in abortion and offerings of medical services such as pregnancy tests and ultrasounds can mislead women with unplanned pregnancies, funneling them to nonmedical organizations intent on persuading women not to choose abortion.

“CPCs are becoming more medicalized and presenting themselves as medical clinics when they're not regulated as such,” said Andrea Swartzendruber, a professor of public health at the University of Georgia who mapped crisis pregnancy centers across the country. “They're not subject to personal information privacy laws. They're just not regulated as medical clinics.” 

Of the seven Nevada-based centers and national hotline that Brown refers women to on his website, none refer for abortions. But most have tabs on their webpages about abortion, listing side effects and sometimes promoting misinformation about long-term effects. Many caution that women who choose to terminate pregnancies are frequently coerced and have regret, anxiety and guilt.

Brown, whose abortion stance has changed since he first ran for office in Texas in 2014, is not the only prominent Republican in Nevada to support these crisis pregnancy centers. While campaigning, Gov. Joe Lombardo (R) paid two of the centers Brown lists for events and hosted a town hall at an affiliated church of a third crisis pregnancy center — Las Vegas-based First Choice Pregnancy Center — that Brown also included.

That center’s political beliefs also differ from Brown’s. In October 2022, First Choice Pregnancy Center posted a video of its executive director pushing back against abortion ever being medically necessary to save a mother’s life and saying that pregnancies resulting from rape and incest are God’s will.

“When you think about incest and rape, just ask yourself if it’s fair to hold somebody else accountable and to end their heartbeat for the actions of somebody else,” Deborah Costello, the executive director, said in the video. “God knew the circumstances surrounding creating that baby, and he chose to place that baby there for a reason.”

Costello confirmed to The Nevada Independent that the center is still against exceptions for the 2024 election cycle.

Swartzendruber said that since Roe was overturned, interest in and funding for crisis pregnancy centers has proliferated. Supporting crisis pregnancy centers could be a way for candidates staking out a more moderate position on abortion to advocate against it without supporting a ban or new restrictions, she said. New restrictions are unpopular in Nevada.

Republican support for crisis pregnancy centers is relatively common — in several red states, they even receive public funding from state legislatures. They’ve received federal grants as well — a practice Democrats and the Biden administration are trying to end.

But Brown’s referral to crisis pregnancy centers on his campaign website is unique among both Nevada Senate candidates and swing state Republican frontrunners. 

Among Brown’s Senate primary rivals, neither Jim Marchant, Jeff Gunter or Tony Grady have such a list on their website — in fact, Marchant and Gunter avoid mentions of abortion issues at all.

Across the swing states, Montana’s Tim Sheehy calls himself pro-life and Pennsylvania’s Dave McCormick, like Brown, also refers to himself as “pro-life.” while noting his opposition to a national abortion ban and support for exceptions. 

Arizona’s Kari Lake repeats the notion that many women regret their abortions and are “pushed” into the decision — a stance many crisis pregnancy centers take — and, like Brown, does not support a federal ban. But her website does not refer women to any crisis pregnancy centers in her state. 

Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s Eric Hovde and Michigan’s Mike Rogers do not mention abortion at all on their websites, though Rogers supported these organizations as a member of Congress. And Ohio’s Bernie Moreno, who supports a 15-week national ban, has his website redirect to his fundraising page, avoiding policy issues entirely.

And in more conservative states, including Texas, Indiana and Utah, leading candidates do not mention any of these centers.


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