With the future of women's abortion rights suddenly occupying a spotlight in Washington, Democratic Senate nominee Jane Raybould is pledging that she would "fight to stop the confirmation of any justice who will overturn Roe v. Wade" if she is elected in November.
That statement is part of a fundraising appeal issued by Raybould last week, but she said Tuesday it is not the focal point or defining issue of her Senate campaign.
Health care, agricultural trade, tax policy and the treatment of immigrant children who have been separated from their parents at the border with Mexico are all key issues that concern Nebraskans, Raybould said in a telephone interview.
"I think the majority of concerns circle back to health care," she said.
And that is where she is centering her message, Raybould said, with pledges to protect Medicare, address the cost of increasing health care premiums and provide needed health care reform.
The Trump administration's trade policies are a major concern for Nebraska agriculture, Raybould said, threatening agricultural trade with Canada and Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement while shutting off access to markets that would have been available under the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement that the president abandoned.
Nebraska farmers need a strong voice in the Senate, she said.
Raybould said her contest with Republican Sen. Deb Fischer is focused on much more than the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade decision that ruled state laws criminalizing abortion violated a woman's constitutional right to privacy.
That ruling appears to be in jeopardy now with President Donald Trump's forthcoming nomination of a U.S. Supreme Court judge to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement from the court.
Speculation on a successor has been accompanied by conjecture in Washington that the new justice may tip the court into a new ruling overturning Roe v. Wade and perhaps returning abortion rights decisions to the states.
The Republican-controlled Senate appears determined to seat a new justice before the November general election, which conceivably could hand control of the Senate back to Democrats in January.
However, even though a successor to Kennedy might be settled before Nebraskans choose between Fischer and Raybould in November, one or more new openings on the court could occur during the six years of the next Senate term. One justice is 85; another is 79.
"I would want to be sure nominees value precedent and case law," Raybould said.
"It's not just about abortion; it's about civil rights and civil liberties, too."
In her fundraising letter, Raybould said "the stakes in this election just got much higher" with the retirement of Kennedy and the opening on the court.
"We can't let Senator Fischer take our nation and our rights backward," she wrote.
"We need another justice who will actually defend the Constitution and fight to make our nation more fair, equal and just.
"Senator Fischer wants another justice like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, two justices who repeatedly voted to restrict the rights of women, workers, voters and everyday Nebraskans.
"I will refuse to vote for any justice who would protect the interests of the powerful at the expense of everyday people," Raybould wrote.