Election 2024

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What Sam Brown has (and hasn’t) said about abortion as Democratic attacks mount

Sean Golonka
Sean Golonka
Election 2024

Last year, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) won re-election in the tightest U.S. Senate race in the country with campaign messaging that focused heavily on her support for abortion access while contrasting her with Republican opponent Adam Laxalt’s anti-abortion positions.

Now, Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) is hoping to capitalize on the same type of messaging ahead of her 2024 re-election bid. But as Nevada Democrats have targeted the race’s Republican frontrunner, Sam Brown, over his stance on abortion, they’ve at times misrepresented his views and amplified years-old comments from a candidate who has said very little about the issue.

That included a pair of press conferences across the state last week that saw Democratic elected officials and leaders of abortion rights groups blast Brown on abortion while standing next to a sign claiming Brown supports banning abortion, even in cases of rape or incest.

Abortion is protected up to 24 weeks under Nevada law, and is legal beyond that point to protect the life or health of the pregnant person. Though only a majority vote could overturn Nevada’s law, a national ban could supersede state law and restrict access to abortion.

Democrats’ attacks underscore not only Brown’s standing atop the crowded GOP primary field, but also Democrats’ belief that abortion will again prove to be a key issue for Nevada voters who strongly favor abortion protections.

But what has Brown actually said about abortion?

‘Pro life’ view

While Brown’s campaign — both in his 2022 U.S. Senate run that ended with a second-place finish in the primary and ongoing 2024 bid — has focused primarily on the economy and anti-Democrat messaging, he has repeatedly stated he is “pro life.”

In a statement in September, Brown said that his view on abortion was shaped by his experience in Afghanistan, where Brown suffered severe burns in an explosion while deployed as a U.S. Army captain.

His campaign materials have provided little more insight into his position on abortion. In 2022, Brown’s campaign website said he opposed federal funding for abortion and would support nominated U.S. Supreme Court justices who “understand the importance of protecting life.”

His campaign site now has additional information about his opposition to “late term abortion” — which rarely takes place compared with abortions at earlier stages of gestation — and to “abortion without parental notification.” The site also highlights Brown’s support for adoption and improving pre- and postnatal care.

What about exceptions?

Last week, Nevada State Democratic Party Chair and Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno (D-North Las Vegas) claimed Brown would support an abortion ban without exceptions for rape or incest. She pointed to a 2022 iVoterGuide survey listed as filled out by Brown, saying he “stated in his own words that he opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest.” In the survey, Brown is listed as supporting abortion only in cases of “risk of life to the mother.” 

However, Brown’s campaign refuted that position, telling The Nevada Independent on Thursday that he had “no involvement with the questionnaire” and “disavows it,” adding that a junior staffer working on his prior run for office had partially filled out the survey without authorization.

Brown told The Nevada Independent earlier this year that he supports exceptions in cases of rape, incest and a threat to the life of a mother.

In a statement to KTVN last week, Brown’s campaign described Democrats’ recent attacks as “outright lies.”

Would he support a national abortion ban?

Brown has notably avoided the question. In an interview this summer after announcing his candidacy, Brown declined to say whether he would support or oppose a national abortion ban. He said he would not “deliberate on hypothetical legislation.”

But that has not stopped Democrats from claiming that he will support such a ban. State Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) said at a press conference last week that national Republicans are “all in on Sam Brown” as a way to get “the votes that they need to bring a nationwide abortion ban to the floor of the U.S. Senate.”

Backing up their statements, Nevada Democrats point to Brown’s 2014 support for Texas’ then 20-week ban on abortion. At the time a state legislative candidate, Brown described the issue as “nonnegotiable” in a candidate forum.

Still, Brown has largely avoided answering questions about a national abortion ban in interviews with other media outlets.

Why are these attacks happening?

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last year, Democratic candidates emphasized their support for protecting abortion and outperformed expectations in the 2022 midterm elections. Voters have approved ballot measures protecting abortion even in conservative states, such as Kansas and Ohio.

Though Nevadans voted in 1990 to protect abortion in state law — a law that can only be overturned by a majority of voters — Democratic lawmakers are pushing for a constitutional amendment to protect abortion that is likely to land on the 2026 general election ballot. Separately, a reproductive rights group is pursuing a similar constitutional amendment that could end up on the 2024 general election ballot, though it is currently in legal limbo

Now as those same groups amplify the issue in the Senate race, even one Republican candidate has attacked Brown on abortion. Jeff Gunter, a dermatologist and former Trump-appointed U.S. ambassador to Iceland, said on social media he does not support a national abortion ban and accused Brown of supporting a ban with no exceptions. 

Brown has done little to rebut the attacks. Abortion remains a lower priority for a candidate more outwardly focused on federal spending and the economy. But if Rosen can follow Cortez Masto’s playbook from the 2022 cycle, the issue could boost Rosen’s re-election chances in a state where voters remain strongly in favor of abortion protections.

Editor’s Note: This story appears in Indy Elections, The Nevada Independent’s newsletter dedicated to comprehensive coverage of the 2024 elections. Sign up for the newsletter here.

This story was updated at 10:25 a.m. on 12/7/23 to add clarifying information about Brown’s stance on exceptions and the 2022 iVoterGuide survey.


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