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Nevada Judge Rules Dangerous Personhood Ballot Initiative is Misleading

LAS VEGAS – Today a Nevada state judge rewrote a misleading ballot initiative to make clear it is designed to ban all abortions and other vital women’s health services by granting legal protections to fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses. The initiative was originally worded in such vague and misleading terms that it failed to make clear the far-reaching effects the initiative would have on Nevada law.

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Planned Parenthood Federation of America

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The initiative was proposed by the Nevada Prolife Coalition. The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Nevada, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America challenged the initiative and another similar measure on behalf of a group of registered Nevada voters. 

“This misleading initiative could have tricked voters into supporting a measure that would have banned a range of vital health services,” said Dane S. Claussen, executive director of the ACLU of Nevada. “We’re relieved that the court refused to allow proponents to deceive voters in this manner."

Similar initiatives have twice been rejected by voters in Colorado (in 2008 and 2010) and most recently this past November in Mississippi. 

“Nevadans deserve to know that this initiative seeks to outlaw women’s health services like abortion, the birth control pill, and treatment for complicated pregnancies, just to name a few,” said Elisa Cafferata, president and CEO of Nevada Advocates for Planned Parenthood Affiliates. “Nearly 20 years ago, Nevada voters affirmed the tenets of Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to privacy.  Nevadans do not support interfering in women’s personal and private decision making.”   

Nevada District Court Judge James E. Wilson stated in his decision: “The court has found the petitioners have established that if the initiative passes it will affect various areas including common birth control methods, the treatment of ectopic pregnancy, in vitro fertilization treatment, and stem cell research.”

“The proponents of this initiative were trying to hide the ball,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “They know that across the country, voters have repeatedly rejected measures that would interfere with a woman’s ability to make her own health care decisions.”

As rewritten by Judge Wilson, the petitions would say:

“All persons are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights including the right to life.  This initiative proposes to add a new section to the Nevada Constitution to protect a prenatal person’s right to life.  The new section would make it unlawful to intentionally kill a prenatal person by any means.  The term “prenatal person” includes every human being form the moment an egg is fertilized by a sperm and at all stages of development from that time until birth.  The initiative would protect a prenatal person regardless of whether or not the prenatal person would live, grow, or develop in the womb or survive birth; prevent all abortions even in the case of rape, incest, or serious threats to the woman’s health or life, or when a woman is suffering from a miscarriage, or as an emergency treatment for an ectopic pregnancy.  The initiative will impact some rights Nevada women currently have ot access certain fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization.  The initiative will impact some rights Nevada women currently have to utilize some forms of birth control, including the “pill;” and to access certain fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization.  The initiative will affect embryonic stem cell research, which offers potential for treating diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, and others.”

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Wilson’s decision, including the rewritten ballot initiative, can be found at: www.aclu.org/reproductive-freedom/chen-v-nevada-prolife-coalition-judgment

More information on this case can be found at:
www.aclu.org/reproductive-freedom/chen-et-al-v-personhood-nevada-and-chen-et-al-v-nevada-prolife-coalition

Published

December 31, 1969

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Nevada Judge Rules Dangerous Personhood Ballot Initiative is Misleading