Carson Judge Rules Anti-Abortion Initiative Petition Can Go Forward

CARSON CITY – A district judge today ruled against pro-choice advocates seeking to stop an initiative petition that proposes to outlaw abortion by declaring that life begins at conception.

An appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court is likely.

The 12-page judgment from Carson City District Judge James Wilson said the proposed constitutional amendment submitted by the Nevada Prolife Coalition does not violate a rule for ballot measures requiring them to address only a single subject.

Carson City District Judge James Wilson.

“Prolife’s initiative may have effects in various areas including common birth control methods, the treatment of ectopic pregnancy, in vitro fertilization treatment, and stem cell research,” Wilson said. “But those effects flow from a single subject and purpose, prohibiting the taking of prenatal life.”

Wilson did find that the “description of effect” required for imitative petitions, which sets out what would happen if it was approved by voters, was inadequate. Rather than reject the proposed petition, however, he ordered a new description to be used as the group gathers signatures to qualify the measure for the 2012 general election ballot.

Supporters of the measure would need to collect 72,352 valid signatures by June 19 to have it placed on the November 2012 general election ballot. The measure would have to be approved by voters twice, in 2012 and again in 2014, to take effect.

The Carson District Court will hear oral arguments in the challenge of a second anti-abortion measure on Wednesday. The Personhood Nevada initiative would also declare that life begins at conception and place the definition in the Nevada constitution.

Opponents of the measures say that if approved, the initiatives could ban vital health services by granting legal protections to fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses.

Opponents of the proposal, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Nevada and Planned Parenthood Federation of America, highlighted the fact that Wilson changed the wording of the measure in a press release.

“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.”

The Personhood effort is a national one, with measures being sought for placement on the ballot in several states. One test of the measure came in Mississippi in November, where it was rejected by voters.