Nevada Personhood Amendment on Abortion Heads to State Supreme Court for Hearing

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 6, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Nevada Personhood Amendment on Abortion Heads to State Supreme Court for Hearing

by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 6
, 2010

Carson City, NV ( — Backers of the personhood amendment in Nevada are appealing in front of the Nevada Supreme Court today to make their case for the measure that could ban abortions. They will fight a ruling saying the amendment should not appear before voters on the November ballot.

Abortion advocates in Nevada filed a lawsuit seeking to stop pro-life advocates who want to gather signatures to put a personhood measure on the ballot.

In January, a judge said the language was too broad and violated a state law saying ballot measures can’t cover more than one subject.

The amendment does not specifically mention abortion, but says its intent is to codify "the inalienable right to life for everyone, young or old, healthy or ill, conscious or unconscious, born or unborn."

"In the great state of Nevada, the term ‘person’ applies to every human being," the one-sentence amendment reads.

Personhood amendment supporters appealed the decision to the state’s high court and now the seven justices will hold a hearing. An immediate decision on the legal divide is not expected, but the court fast tracked the case so amendment backers could still meet a May 18 deadline to qualify measures for the 2010 election.

Carson City District Court Judge James Russell issued the ruling siding with the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. The pro-abortion groups say the five-paragraph description of the measure does not say that the end result would ban abortions.

"The issue to me is, are we adequately informing voters on what they’re voting on," Russell said in his ruling. "There’s no way for the voter to understand the effects of the initiative."

In February, Personhood Nevada president Olaf Vancura said there is still enough time to get the personhood amendment on the ballot after the Nevada Supreme Court rules on its appeal.

"It’s a civil rights initiative by and for the people. By the logic of First District Court Judge James Russell, the people of Nevada would never be allowed to bring forth a civil rights initiative," he said in a statement received. "Such denial is unconstitutional. We’re appealing to the Supreme Court in hopes that they will recognize the voters’ rights in the State of Nevada."

Even if the Supreme Court allows the amendment to move forward, political observers say it faces monumental hurdles.

If the measure is approved, pro-abortion groups would file another lawsuit to overturn it and it would likely be overturned in state or federal court.

Also, Legislative Counsel Bureau Brenda Erdoes tells the Las Vegas Review-Journal that it will run up against a 1990 law that put the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in state law.

Not every pro-life group in the state is on board with the strategy, with some saying that it would be a waste of time and money for what would be a certain loss in the courts and that there are better methods for ending or reducing abortions.

Don Nelson, president of Nevada Life, says money should be put towards education, legislation that has reduced abortions, or electing pro-life candidates who can help change the court so personhood amendments could be upheld.

"Right now, we feel those measures will yield more progress for the pro-life movement," Nelson said. "We would have to pull back from those efforts to get on something like this (petition) that doesn’t promise a lot of return."

"This bill has no chance of ending abortion in America or in Nevada. And the effect of this could add more precedence to supporting Roe v. Wade," he explained.

Nelson also said that the current Supreme Court will overturn the amendment and that the focus needs to be placed on changing what is currently a pro-abortion high court.

A similar lawsuit was filed by Planned Parenthood against Colorado’s Personhood Amendment in 2008, but the lawsuit failed. Although the Colorado amendment was longer, it was found to be a single subject issue and allowed to proceed.

Colorado was also the first and only state to have voted on a personhood amendment following the new movement for them. That amendment died on a lopsided vote at the polls, losing 73-27 percent.

Voters in Colorado will vote on the amendment again this year and Mississippi voters may do so as well.

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