In 2013, Lucy Flores, then 33, told a remarkable story to her colleagues in the Nevada legislature. As one of 13 children born into an impoverished Hispanic family, she had joined a gang, gone to juvenile detention and dropped out of high school. “At 16, I got an abortion,” she told lawmakers. “I don’t regret it.”
When Flores ran for lieutenant governor the next year, what captured the attention of Nevada voters — and the national media — wasn’t that she had transformed herself from a teenage gang member into a law student who won her first election to the state assembly just after graduating. It was that she spoke openly and remorselessly about one of the most controversial acts in American social life. She didn’t sprint away from the topic, as generations of politicians have done.
Even more surprisingly, pro-choice and Democratic electoral groups cheered Flores instead of advising her to keep quiet. She faced a brutal antiabortion backlash — she received death threats and lost the lieutenant governor’s race by 26 points — but she did so with enthusiastic endorsements from Emily’s List, NARAL Pro-Choice America and Harry Reid, who was then majority leader in the U.S. Senate.