Nevada Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto on Tuesday denigrated the National Right to Life Committee as an "extremist group" in a campaign ad attacking the group's endorsement of her Republican opponent Adam Laxalt.
The ad ominously refers to National Right to Life as a "powerful extremist group" pushing for Congress to pass a "national abortion ban."
Masto's campaign goes after Laxalt for receiving the pro-life group's endorsement, claiming that he would support such an abortion ban without exceptions for pregnancies conceived by rape or incest.
"Behind Republicans' national abortion ban is a powerful extremist group: National Right to Life. They're behind Adam Laxalt too, and he's proud to have their endorsement," the ad states.
"They want no exceptions for rape or incest and said a 10-year-old rape victim should be forced to have the baby. And Adam Laxalt promised to join in their fight if elected."
Founded in 1968, NRLC describes itself as the nation's oldest and largest grassroots pro-life organization. In a statement to TheBlaze, the group repudiated the claims made in Masto's attack ad.
"National Right to Life does not want babies to die and supports measures to support the lives of mothers and their unborn children. Catherine Cortez Masto is the extremist who wants unlimited abortion even late in pregnancy and paid for by taxpayer dollars," the group said.
"National Right to Life supports Adam Laxalt because he recognizes the right to life and opposes taxpayer funding of abortion as well as the extreme pro-abortion policies of the Democratic party."
NRLC went on to say the only federal abortion legislation it supports is a bill authored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), which would limit abortion to 15 weeks gestation, which is in the fourth month of pregnancy. Graham's bill prevents abortions "except in situations involving rape, incest, or risks to the life and physical health of the mother."
"In poll after poll, the vast majority of Americans consistently oppose abortions after the 3rd month of pregnancy," NRLC said.
Cortez Masto was mocked on social media for labeling NRLC an "extremist" group.
"NRTL is an extremist group? OMG. We’re they founded by an unrepentant racist who advocated targeting minority communities with eugenics and abortion!? Oh wait ... that was Planned Parenthood," tweeted Nick Freitas, a Republican state representative from Virginia.
"An 'extremist group?' National Right to Life was organized by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. It's former president met with Pope John Paull II. Just so we're clear on who Cortez Masto is calling an 'extremist group,'" said Republican strategist Matt Wolking.
Abortion has become a flashpoint issue in the 2022 midterm election campaign since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, ruling that the U.S. Constitution does not protect abortion rights. A Pew Research poll in July found that 62% of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and Democrats have sought to weaponize the issue against Republicans to mitigate their expected losses in the midterms.
Nevada's senatorial race is considered one of the most competitive in the country, as polls show the incumbent Masto is vulnerable to being unseated by Laxalt.
Though NRLC has proposed model legislation to criminalize abortion except to prevent the death of the mother, Laxalt has not endorsed that legislation and says he does not support federal abortion restrictions.
In an op-ed for the Reno Gazette-Journal, Laxalt slammed Cortez Masto for lying about his position and called out her own support for the Women's Health Protection Act — a Democratic bill that would codify Roe v. Wade and overturn state restrictions on abortion, which opponents say would radically legalize abortion up until birth.
"She has consistently voted to allow the barbaric procedure of late-term abortion, up to the point of live birth, even forcing you, the taxpayer, to fund this infanticide. That is a radical policy change from what currently exists in Nevada — which is the ability to have a legal abortion procedure up through six months of pregnancy," Laxalt wrote in August.
"This unconscionable position of killing a full-term baby is indefensible, so naturally, Cortez Masto and her allies are spending millions of dollars in campaign ads trying to deflect from it and make you believe in a falsehood that I would support a federal ban on abortion as a U.S. senator, or that I am somehow 'anti-woman' because I value, support and defend life at all stages."
Laxalt says he favors letting each state set its own abortion laws according to the will of voters.