Posts Tagged ‘abortion’

Carson Judge Rules Against Personhood Petition Seeking To Define Life As Starting At Conception

By Sean Whaley | 6:08 pm December 21st, 2011

CARSON CITY – A Carson City district judge today ruled an initiative petition to amend the state constitution to define human life as beginning at conception was too vague and so could not be circulated to qualify for the November 2012 ballot.

Carson City District Judge James Wilson ruled from the bench after an hour of argument from attorneys representing Personhood Nevada and the American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged the proposal in court.

“It looks to me like this is unnecessarily broad,” Wilson said at one point in the hearing. He also said it was vague and did not clearly state what its intent was. The description of effect required for such ballot measures was also unclear and could not be rehabilitated, he said in his ruling.

Olaf Vancura and Candy Best with Personhood Nevada talk about their proposed initiative petition before a court hearing today. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

Attorney Gary Kreep, with the United States Justice Foundation based in California, represented Personhood Nevada. He said the proposal to amend the Nevada constitution to define a person as starting at “biological development” was clear and did not violate the requirement that ballot proposals deal with a single subject.

He acknowledged that the effects  of the proposed change to the constitution to include the phrase “the term ‘person’ includes every human being” could be numerous, however, as the definition was applied to various areas of state law.

But Kreep said the ramifications of the proposal would become clear to voters as the measure was debated before election day.

ACLU attorney Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, representing Nevada voters opposed to the proposed constitutional amendment, argued that registered voters would not have a clear understanding of what the effect of the proposal would be if asked to sign the petition to place the measure on the ballot.

Opponents of the proposal were happy with Wilson’s ruling.

“Obviously we’re pleased that the court agreed with us that it’s important that voters fully understand the sweeping impacts that these initiatives would have and we’re pleased to see that this one cannot go forward,” said Elisa Cafferata, president and CEO of Nevada Advocates for Planned Parenthood Affiliates.

Kreep said after the hearing the group will have to assess whether to appeal the decision to the Nevada Supreme Court. The Personhood group lost on similar grounds in 2010 when it tried to circulate a similar petition to Nevada voters.

Personhood Nevada could potentially file a revised initiative petition with the secretary of state’s office, but then the legal review process would begin all over again.

“The abortion providers, according to Congressional testimony by former employees, make millions and hundreds of millions of dollars off of selling body parts,” Kreep said following Wilson’s ruling. “They get hundreds of millions of dollars in state aid. And it feeds the attorneys who litigate for them to keep the death machine going.”

Wilson on Monday ruled that a separate proposed constitutional amendment submitted by the Nevada Prolife Coalition to outlaw abortion did not violate a rule for ballot measures requiring them to address only a single subject and he allowed the petition to go forward.

Cafferata said opponents are still evaluating whether to appeal that decision to the Nevada Supreme Court.

Groups seeking to place a constitutional amendment on the 2012 ballot would need to collect 72,352 valid signatures by June 19. The measure would have to be approved by voters twice, in 2012 and again in 2014, to take effect.

Before the hearing, Olaf Vancura, a member of the Board of Directors of Personhood Nevada, said the proposed amendment is simple: “The sole purpose of this initiative is to clarify the definition of what a person is in the state of Nevada. And that’s why it is a simple seven words, ‘the term person includes every human being.’ ”

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.


Audio clips:

Elisa Cafferata, president and CEO of Nevada Advocates for Planned Parenthood Affiliates, says opponents of the Personhood petition are pleased with the ruling:

122111Cafferata :16 cannot go forward.”

Olaf Vancura, a member of the Board of Directors of Personhood Nevada, says the proposals is simple:

122111Vancura :12 every human being.”

Attorney Gary Kreep, representing Personhood Nevada, says abortion supporters make millions on the practice:

122111Kreep :15 death machine going.”

Efforts By Citizens To Access November Ballot End In Failure

By Sean Whaley | 5:05 am June 16th, 2010

CARSON CITY – One proposal sought to increase mining taxes and another wanted to define life as beginning at conception. A third would have required secret ballots for employee votes on whether to join a union and yet another would have given Nevada residents the right to reject participation in government backed health care.

But none of these citizen-backed proposals to amend the Nevada state constitution will be on the ballot come November. Legal challenges, the cost and time required to circulate petitions and other factors have led to all such measures ending in failure this election cycle.

Yesterday was the deadline for groups to turn in the nearly 100,000 signatures needed to qualify constitutional amendments for the ballot.

The only group to come close, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, announced Monday it would fall short of the number of signatures needed to ask voters to consider increasing the mining tax.

Jan Gilbert, northern Nevada coordinator for PLAN, said a legal challenge by the well-financed Nevada mining industry did hurt the group’s efforts. The effort was also made more complex by the 2009 Legislature by requiring signatures to be collected in the state’s three congressional districts, she said.

In Clark County, where all three of Nevada’s representatives have constituents, signature gatherers had to determine which of three petitions to use for each registered voter, Gilbert said.

The process shouldn’t be so easy that voters have to consider 20 or 30 ballot questions every two years, but it should be fair, she said.

Las Vegas attorney Joel Hansen, who has in the past argued in court in support of several constitutional amendment efforts, said the process is intentionally designed by the Legislature to thwart the public’s will.

“They don’t want the people to have this input,” he said. “They have been hostile to the process.”

Hansen, who advocated for an initiative petition to impose a spending limitation on state government four years ago, said the process is set up to allow expensive legal challenges by opponents. Most citizen groups can’t afford to fight such legal challenges, and if they do and they win, any funds to collect signatures are then depleted, he said.

“The right of ordinary people to do this has essentially been destroyed by the Legislature’s burdensome requirements,” Hansen said.

The TASC measure to limit the growth of state government to inflation and population growth was kicked off the ballot by the Nevada Supreme Court after supporters had won in district court, he said. Hansen, who argued to put the measure on the ballot, said a typographical error was cited as the reason by the Supreme Court to not let it go to the voters.

The court in its ruling said the error was significant and not just a minor typo.

Hansen said such rulings frustrate the will of the voters who clearly want the measures qualified for the ballot.

Since the Legislature is unwilling to simplify the process, the only answer may be an initiative petition by the people to amend the state constitution to reform the process for placing such measures on the ballot, he said.

“It’s very discouraging,” he said. “I have not been involved in any of these this year because nobody has the heart for it anymore.”

Hansen, a candidate for attorney general with the Independent American Party, said he would work if elected to advocate for the public’s right to access the ballot.

“Whatever I can do from that position, I will do it,” he said.

Gilbert said another challenge for PLAN was the requirement for nearly 100,000 signatures, a significant number resulting from the strong turnout in the 2008 presidential election. The signature requirement in other years can be much lower depending on turnout at the prior general election.

A challenge to the mining tax proposal was just argued in front of the Nevada Supreme Court earlier this month. Gilbert said she does not know if a ruling will be forthcoming now that the group has not filed its signatures.

The legal challenge by the Nevada Mining Association could only be contested by PLAN with the help of attorneys who worked for free, she said.

Gilbert said PLAN believes the petition effort has laid the groundwork for the Legislature to consider mining tax increases in the 2011 session.

If a citizen-backed constitutional amendment does make it on the ballot, it must be approved twice before it can take effect. The Legislature can place such amendments on the ballot after approving them in two consecutive legislative sessions.

The process is equally complex for citizens who want to change an existing state law rather than amend the constitution, but the time frame to collect signatures is longer. Several such petitions are circulating, including one by Gov. Jim Gibbons to open up the public employee negotiating process to the open meeting law. The deadline for signatures for these measures is Nov. 9.

Audio files

Jan Gilbert of PLAN says there are obstacles to petition drives in Nevada:

061510Gilbert1 :14 get those signatures.”

Gilbert says initiative process shouldn’t be too easy but should be fair:

061510Gilbert2 :16 that is achievable.”

Las Vegas attorney Joel Hansen says Legislature has intentionally made petition process difficult:

061510Hansen1 :22 having this voice.”

Hansen says Nevada Supreme Court has frustrated will of people:

061510Hansen2 :20 think we will.”