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GOP Senate candidate Sam Brown once supported 20-week abortion ban, is now less specific

While Brown has avoided taking a position on a national ban, his comments from a 2014 campaign marked a rare show of support for specific limits on abortion.
Sean Golonka
Sean Golonka
Election 2024

Republican U.S. Senate candidate and retired U.S. Army Capt. Sam Brown describes himself as “pro life” and has said he wants to see fewer abortions, but he has so far largely avoided giving specific answers to questions about his position on abortion on the Nevada campaign trail.

But nearly a decade ago, Brown said he supported another state’s 20-week ban on abortion.

“On issues of life, that is a nonnegotiable for me, we've got to do everything we can to empower our state, make sure that it stays on the books,” Brown said during a legislative candidate forum in 2014 when asked how much Texas should spend, if necessary, to defend the state’s 2013 abortion law, which banned abortion after 20 weeks post-fertilization.

Asked for comment about his past support for the 20-week abortion ban, Brown avoided the question and reiterated his current position on abortion. 

“My personal view was shaped in large part by my experience in Afghanistan where I nearly lost my own life but was then blessed with a second chance at living. I’m pro life, with exceptions for the tragic cases of rape, incest and situations where the mother’s life is at risk,” Brown said in a statement.

Brown is the leading Republican candidate to take on Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) next year, with national GOP groups and establishment D.C. Republicans supporting his candidacy — though he faces a potentially thorny GOP primary against former Assemblyman Jim Marchant and former Ambassador to Iceland Jeff Gunter in a growing field of challengers. 

On the campaign trail this year, Brown has eluded questions about his position on placing more stringent restrictions on abortion.

In an interview with The Nevada Independent in July, Brown declined to say whether he would support a national abortion ban, calling it a hypothetical situation and that he does not “see Nevada's laws changing.”

While Brown has focused his campaign on the economy, attacking Rosen for high inflation and what he describes as excessive government spending, Democrats have continued to place abortion at the forefront, attacking Brown for his position on the issue.

During the 2014 forum, Brown said he “would have supported the legislation that passed this last special session,” referring to the 2013 law that banned abortions in Texas past 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The Texas law at the time included exceptions after 20 weeks for cases posing a risk to the life of the patient or if the fetus has a severe medical problem, but not for cases of rape or incest. The state has since adopted a law banning abortions if a "fetal heartbeat" is detected, or roughly after six weeks into pregnancy.

Brown, a veteran who was severely injured by an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan and suffered burns over 30 percent of his body, made his political debut in 2014 running for a seat in the Texas House of Representatives. Brown finished third in the race’s Republican primary. 

At the time of Brown’s 2014 run, he expressed support for more stringent, though unspecified, restrictions on abortion.

“I think that it's a shame that here in Texas, which is being lauded as such a conservative state with regard to the issue of life, half of Europe has stricter laws than we do here,” he said during the forum, which was hosted by a group called Far North Dallas Tea Party Patriots. “I think we can't just let the issue lie where we're at. We need people to continue to go back to Austin who understand the sanctity of life.”

Opponents of the 2013 law argued it would lead to many of the state's abortion clinics shutting down because they would be required to meet the same standards that hospital-style surgical centers do, and because the law mandated that a doctor who performs abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned those parts of the law in 2016.

Abortion in Nevada

Nevada’s abortion law protects access to abortions through 24 weeks of pregnancy and after 24 weeks in order to protect the health of the mother. Nevada voters affirmed those protections via a 1990 referendum, with 63 percent of voters approving of the law, meaning it can only be overturned by a majority of voters — despite the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade last year and, with it, federal protections for abortion.

A May poll from The Nevada Independent and Noble Predictive Insights found that 62 percent of Nevada’s likely voters supported enshrining abortion protections in the Nevada Constitution.

Last election cycle, abortion also proved to be a motivating issue in Nevada, particularly for Democratic voters. A July 2022 poll of Nevada registered voters found that abortion ranked second behind the economy as the issue most motivating respondents to vote, and a KFF/AP voter survey last fall found that for more than four-in-ten Nevada voters, the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade had a major impact on who they voted for.

Abortion access also proved to be a winning issue for Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s (D-NV) 2022 re-election campaign, with the incumbent running hard on the issue amid her narrow victory over Republican Adam Laxalt. 

While Brown has avoided saying whether he would support specific limits on abortion nationally or within Nevada, his campaign website states that he “will oppose any bill that pushes for federal funding of abortion, late term abortions or abortion without parental notification.”

Nevada law does not require parental notification or consent for those under 18 seeking an abortion, though the July 2022 poll found that a majority of respondents supported a 48-hour parental notification window for minors seeking abortion care.

In the July interview with The Nevada Independent, he said he supported ensuring easier paths for adoptions and “better access and better care for both prenatal and postnatal moms,” while emphasizing he wants “to see fewer abortions.”

Brown has meanwhile lambasted Rosen as “extreme on this issue,” criticizing her for what he described as support for late-term abortion at the point of seven to nine months of pregnancy. That is a reference to her support for the Women’s Health Protection Act, a bill meant to enshrine protections from Roe v. Wade into federal law. 

The measure would prevent states from prohibiting abortion services before fetal viability (about 24 weeks) or after fetal viability when a provider determines the pregnancy risks the patient's life or health. 

Experts say that abortions in the third trimester are extremely rare and typically occur because of a significant fetal abnormality, according to an Associated Press fact check on claims about the bill.

Faith shapes Brown’s views on abortion

In his failed run for U.S. Senate last year and a repeat run that began this past July, Brown has highlighted how his Christian faith has shaped his view on the subject.

“The first thing I'm gonna tell you is because of my personal life experience and my faith, I am pro life,” he said in July.

In the wake of his primary election loss last year, Brown became the chairman of the Nevada Faith and Freedom Coalition, a nonprofit group “dedicated to educating and mobilizing people of faith, advancing individual liberty, helping those in need, protecting life and building strong bonds within our communities,” according to its website.

While the national Faith and Freedom Coalition has supported abortion laws stricter than Nevada’s, the Nevada branch has comparatively expressed few issue positions.

But Brown frames his views on the subject as not only shaped by his faith, but also by his experience of suffering severe burns during his military service.

“Every life is precious, I learned that firsthand when I nearly lost my own life in Afghanistan. It’s shaped the way I view the world and mankind. It’s in our interest as a country and as human beings that we protect and value life — from the unborn to the everyday person,” he states on his campaign website.


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