Posts Tagged ‘Nelson’

Opposition to Personhood Amendment Puts Nevada Anti-Abortion Groups in Unusual Company

By Sean Whaley | 5:28 pm November 18th, 2009
CARSON CITY – It isn’t every day that Nevada anti-abortion groups find themselves on the same side as Planned Parenthood and the ACLU in a political dispute, but that is what happened this week in regard to the proposed “Personhood Nevada” ballot initiative.

If approved by voters, the state constitutional amendment being pushed by a conservative Nevada group would define “a person” as anyone having a human genome. The goal is to protect all human life, from conception to death, by prohibiting abortion and assisted suicide.

The wording of the measure has been challenged in Carson City District Court by the ACLU of Nevada and Planned Parenthood for being too vague.

On Tuesday, two anti-abortion groups, Nevada Life and Nevada Eagle Forum, announced their opposition to the measure, which was filed in October by Richard Ziser, chairman of a group called Nevada Concerned Citizens. The measure, which would require nearly 100,000 signatures to get on the ballot, is modeled after similar proposals pushed by anti-abortion advocates in other states.

Don Nelson, president of Sparks based Nevada Life, said being on the same side of the abortion debate as Planned Parenthood is just an unfortunate circumstance.

“They are against the petition because they want to destroy the pro-life movement,” he said of Planned Parenthood. “We are against it because we want to save the pro-life movement.”

Nevada Life embraces the concept of the personhood movement, but not the strategy of putting a measure on the ballot, Nelson said.

The Personhood Nevada initiative is misguided because it runs contrary to current U.S. law as embodied in Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. As a result, it will be struck down in an inevitable legal challenge and so not stop even a single abortion, he said.

It could also give activist judges in states where it may be approved by voters the chance to make rulings that could weaken existing protections designed to limit abortions, Nelson said.

The number of abortions has come down in the U.S. in the past two decades despite a huge population increase, the result of successful efforts by Nevada Life and Nevada Eagle Forum and similar groups in changing public opinion, he said.

Rather than spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on an imitative fraught with legal problems, the money could be better spent electing anti-abortion candidates to elective office, Nelson said.

The opposition of the two groups should make it more difficult for Ziser to qualify the Personhood measure for the ballot, he said.

Lee Rowland, northern coordinator for the ACLU of Nevada, said the opposition of the two groups did come as a surprise. But the concerns are similar, she said. The ACLU legal challenge is based on the belief that the initiative is so vague and open to interpretation as to make it impossible for voters to know what they are actually voting on.

“It is certainly heartening that even groups who are firmly pro-life believe that this particular initiative is vague and misleading and could lead to a poor interpretation that the voters could never expect,” Rowland said.

Elisa Maser, president & CEO of Nevada Advocates for Planned Parenthood Affiliates, said voters have the right to know exactly what they are voting on and the proposed initiative does not make it clear what the full impact would be.

Ziser could not be reached for comment on the announcement by the two groups.

The group has until May to qualify the measure for the ballot. Voters would have to approve it twice, in 2010 and 2012, before it could take effect.