A group of progressive organizations including Planned Parenthood plans to spend $3 million in Nevada as part of a $30 million, three-state push to mobilize voters concerned about women’s access to abortion and health care ahead of the midterm elections.
“Nevada has always been a swing state, so politically we have always been an important state,” said Lindsey Harmon, executive director of Nevada Advocates for Planned Parenthood Affiliates (NAPPA), which is the statewide policy, education, lobbying and election arm of the Planned Parenthood health centers in the state.
Women’s health issues have ratched up in importance in Nevada partly because confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh put a focus on the issue of whether abortion rights could be curtailed with the replacement of socially moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy. At the same time, candidates in statewide Nevada races are being pressed over their positions on abortion access. Republican Sen. Dean Heller and GOP gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt have both sent mixed signals, highlighting the potential for the topic to become a wedge issue for voters in the battleground state.
NAPPA has teamed up with Color of Change PAC, Center for Community Change Action and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to form the Win Justice coalition, which will spend $30 million in Nevada, Florida and Michigan to target a total of 2 million voters.
The campaign is designed to mobilize infrequent voters in the three states, where they seek to engage and turn out minorities, women and young people. In Nevada, the group hopes to reach 300,000 voters using peer-to-peer texting, digital organizing, as well as providing resources and training community leaders to knock on doors and mobilize voters in their communities.
“We know that Nevadans pay attention to the issues,” Harmon said, particularly abortion access, which she added helped elect Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto over Republican challenger Joe Heck.
According to a survey conducted in June by the Kaiser Family Foundation, three in 10 female voters said health care is “the most important issue” for 2018 candidates to talk about. It was the most prevalent response.
The group hopes to tap into concern about reproductive rights as the Senate is in the process of confirming conservative jurist Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
The group will also highlight the threat to protections requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions from a lawsuit in Texas that seeks to deem the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. The law currently requires insurers to cover people who have pre-existing conditions; prevents them from charging people more based on their medical history; and specifies that insurers can’t refuse to pay for treatments because of someone’s medical history. Those protections would be overturned if the states pursuing the suit were to prevail.
“We know that with Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, our reproductive rights are on the line, and that pre-existing conditions case working its way through the courts right now…it would strip protections for Nevadans with pre-existing condition,” Harmon said.
In Nevada, the coalition is primarily focused on defeating Heller, who is facing Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen. The race is receiving national attention because it could help determine if Republicans can hold their razor-thin majority in the Senate and Heller is the only Senate Republican seeking re-election in a state Hillary Clinton won. Polling shows that the two are in a dead heat.
Heller’s opponents have attacked him for remarks he made at a town hall in Reno last year in which he said he had “no problems” with federal funding for Planned Parenthood before later voting against funding for the organization. Many conservative lawmakers oppose federal funding for the organization — which provides a host of services including cancer screenings, STD testing and preventative women’s health-care exams — because it also offers abortions, though the law generally bars the use of federal funding to pay for them.
The coalition is also focused on defeating Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt, who is running against Democratic nominee Steve Sisolak in one of the tightest governor’s races in the country.
Abortion is also expected to be an issue in the governor’s race after Laxalt gave an interview to KOLO’s Terri Russell the night of the GOP primary in June. When asked about his decision to sign onto anti-abortion briefs in California and Texas, he responded “I’m going to err on the side of life.” When pressed about if he planned to push for changes to state abortion law, which would need a vote of the people, as governor, Laxalt said, “We are going to look into it.”
Planned Parenthood is a health-care provider with more than 600 affiliates around the country, with two health centers in Las Vegas and one in Reno.
According to a poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation in July, one-third of all women surveyed between the ages of 18-44 said they have visited a Planned Parenthood clinic for health-care services.
The group provides a gamut of health-care services, including helping women prevent an estimated 400,000 unintended pregnancies in a single year. It also administers more than 280,000 Pap tests, which test for cervical cancer, along with more than 335,000 breast exams, and screenings to more than 75,000 women whose cancer was detected early or whose abnormalities were identified and addressed.
Most of Planned Parenthood’s federal funding is from Medicaid reimbursements for preventive care, and some is from the Family Planning Program, known as Title X for its place in the Public Health Service Act, which provides affordable birth control and reproductive health care to people with low incomes. At least 60 percent of Planned Parenthood patients rely on public health programs like Medicaid and Title X for preventive and primary care.
Disclosure: Steve Sisolak has donated to The Nevada Independent. You can see a full list of donors here.