Former GOP Sen. Dean Heller jumped into the Nevada gubernatorial race on Monday, telling reporters that if elected, he would fully support a Texas-style ban on abortions.
Texas’ Senate Bill 8 bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, making it the strictest anti-abortion law in the country. Many women don’t even know they’re pregnant at six weeks, meaning the law is effectively a ban on abortions altogether.
The state deputizes and incentivizes private citizens to sue individuals involved in “aiding or abetting” an abortion. That could be a doctor, a friend or even the driver who dropped the pregnant person off at the clinic.
Heller was appointed to the U.S. Senate in 2011 and lost his seat in the 2018 election, facing simultaneous criticism from his party’s right-wing base and from Democrats who said he was too conservative for a state that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Heller’s comments Monday, the first day of his gubernatorial campaign, indicate that he plans to try to win over conservatives who were skeptical of him, as he competes for his party’s nomination to take on Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) next year. Heller called himself “the only proven conservative in this race,” and came out against mask and vaccine mandates intended to fight the coronavirus, as well as Democratic-led voting rights measures.
His abortion stance could be problematic in the general election, however. As The Nevada Independent notes, polls consistently show that voters in the state support abortion rights.
Heller’s comments are remarkably different from the position on abortion he once held. In 2006, he said: “I’m a Mormon and I teach Sunday school every week, but I do back a woman’s right to choose abortion. It is the conservative position.”
But as a senator from 2011 to 2019, he consistently voted against abortion rights.
In 2017, Heller came under conservative fire for vowing to “protect Planned Parenthood” and saying he had “no problems with federal funding for Planned Parenthood.” His office later clarified his remarks to say that the senator liked the non-abortion services Planned Parenthood provides.
Abortion rights are shaping up to be a major issue in upcoming election cycles, as other states start to gear up for the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade and consider taking up Texas copycat bills.