The abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice Nevada targeted four lawmakers in competitive state Senate districts in a wave of recent mailers following a vote last month on a bill to decriminalize abortion and change the state’s informed consent law.
The mailers asked residents in districts occupied by Republican state Sens. Heidi Gansert and Keith Pickard, who joined almost all of their Republican colleagues in opposing the legislation, to call their senators’ offices to tell them they won’t forget their “betrayal of Nevada women.” Those in districts represented by Democratic state Sens. Nicole Cannizzaro and Marilyn Dondero Loop, who supported the bill, were asked in a separate set of mailers to call their senators to thank them for their support.
According to NARAL Nevada, 10,000 mailers were sent out in each district to their members and female voters identified as supportive of abortion rights. Though it has sent out mailers during election cycles, this is the first time NARAL Nevada has targeted lawmakers during a legislative session.
The bill, which cleared the Assembly 17-13 on Tuesday, would remove felony criminal penalties on abortion that have been in place in Nevada since the early 20th century. SB179, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Yvanna Cancela, would also remove a requirement that doctors explain to patients the emotional implications of undergoing the procedure. It now awaits the governor’s signature.
In a statement, NARAL Pro-Choice Nevada State Director Caroline Mello Roberson said that the organization is “thrilled” the legislation passed but wants to lawmakers to have to answer for their votes.
“NARAL and our members are sending a clear signal that we will hold elected officials who turned their backs on Nevadans accountable in their next election,” Mello Roberson said.
One mailer, for instance, says that Gansert voted “to put Nevada women’s lives at risk.”
“Senator Gansert voted to criminalize women for accessing basic reproductive healthcare,” the mailer says. “She even supported laws that would send women to prison for ending a pregnancy.”
Gansert, on the Senate floor, said she opposed the bill for three reasons: the removal of a section of existing law requiring physicians to certify that a woman gave informed consent to the procedure “freely and without coercion,” the lack of a fix to Nevada’s parental notification statute that is currently unenforceable and the repeal of penalties for selling drugs to produce a miscarriage, which she said was “very broad” and could “open the door to unintended consequences.”
“I rise in support of women, and I think I have a record that supports women. I understand that the intent of this bill is to clean up some language in Nevada statute, but I have three concerns,” Gansert said.
Both Cannizzaro and Gansert are up for re-election in competitive state Senate districts in 2020. Democrats have a 6.8 percentage point voter registration advantage in Cannizzaro’s district covering the northwestern part of Las Vegas, while Republicans have a 1.3 percentage point advantage in Gansert’s Washoe County seat. (Dondero Loop and Pickard ran in close races in 2018 but aren’t up for re-election for another four years.)