Amid the anticipated reversal of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., attacked her election opponent over access to birth control.
In a race that could decide party control of the Senate, which is now split 50-50, Cortez Masto targeted Republican Adam Laxalt in a 15-second video ad on Facebook and Instagram.
“Women’s health care is under assault, and Adam Laxalt is leading the charge,” the narrator says as a Politico headline appears about the the Supreme Court’s leaked draft decision, which indicated the court is poised to overturn the national right to abortion.
“He supports eliminating Nevada’s protections for legal abortions. He even wants to restrict access to birth control,” the narrator says.
Text on the screen went further: “Laxalt worked to limit access to birth control,” it said.
Laxalt is endorsed by former President Donald Trump.
The ad’s claim about Laxalt getting rid of Nevada’s protections for legal abortions is Half True. We did not find evidence that Laxalt supports entirely eliminating protections for legal abortions. But when asked about presenting Nevada voters with a referendum that would restrict abortion access, he indicated he would support it.
On the birth control claim, Laxalt has not campaigned on limiting access. But as Nevada’s attorney general, he participated in efforts to reduce access to contraceptives.
Cortez Masto’s evidence
Democrats hope that the leak of the draft opinion could energize their voters in the Nov. 8 race, which campaign watchers rate as a tossup. Cortez Masto, a first-term senator, is the first Latina to serve in the Senate.
As evidence for the ad’s claim, Cortez Masto’s campaign cited two legal briefs Laxalt joined and a letter he signed as attorney general.
In 2015, Laxalt announced that he joined on behalf of Nevada, along with other state attorneys general, in filing a U.S. Supreme Court brief against a national mandate for employers to provide free contraception to employees.
The amicus, or friend-of-the-court, brief was filed in support of a lawsuit filed by the Little Sisters of the Poor against the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. Amicus briefs are filed by individuals or groups who are not parties to the case but have a strong interest in the case and want to persuade the court’s ruling.
The Little Sisters, a Catholic order, sued to be exempted from the Affordable Care Act’s rule that employer health plans offer free contraceptive coverage. The litigation revolved around whether sincerely held religious or moral objections to contraceptives would allow the employer to sidestep that requirement.
“This brief encourages the Supreme Court to take the necessary steps toward ensuring that our government and our courts do not force people of faith to violate their religious beliefs,” Laxalt was quoted as saying in a press release announcing the filing.
The case was eventually consolidated with several related cases and argued before the Supreme Court. Laxalt also joined in filing a brief in support of religious organizations in the consolidated case.
In 2016, Laxalt acted on behalf of Nevada, joining a Supreme Court amicus brief in support of Washington state pharmacists who refused to, against regulations, dispense emergency contraception pills on religious grounds.
In 2018, Laxalt and other attorneys general signed a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services expressing support for regulations to protect health care workers who object to performing certain medical procedures. The letter said that contraception, sterilization procedures, abortions and other procedures “all raise serious dilemmas for healthcare providers who hold a wide range of religious and moral convictions.”
Laxalt’s campaign did not respond to PolitiFact’s call and emails. His campaign website describes Laxalt as “pro-life” but does not address the topic of birth control.
We searched Google, Newspapers.com, the Nexis news database and Laxalt’s Twitter account but did not find any statements by Laxalt since 2018 on birth control access.
Cortez Masto said Laxalt “wants to restrict” and “worked to limit access to birth control.”
As Nevada’s attorney general, Laxalt supported efforts that would have reduced access to birth control. We did not find that he has made any statements since 2018 on restricting access.
We rate the statement Mostly True.
PolitiFact staff researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.