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Coalition forming to defeat anti-choice initiative



Yesterday, Chet Gallagher filed language with the Secretary of State for an anti-choice initiative petition to amend the state’s constitution.

Nevada is a pro-choice state; voters passed the Freedom of Choice act in 1991 protecting a woman’s right to choose. Gallagher’s proposed constitutional amendment would outlaw abortion in all cases; there are no exceptions for pregnancy complications, rape or incest, not even to save the life of the mother.

The initiative petition would amend the constitution to read: “the intentional taking of a prenatal person’s life shall never be allowed in this State. For the purpose of this section only, the terms “prenatal person” include every human being at all stages of biological development before birth.”

This effort is opposed by a wide-ranging coalition of organizations that support women’s health including Nevada Advocates for Planned Parenthood Affiliates, American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, ProgressNow Nevada, the Nevada Coalition against Sexual Violence and the Nevada Women’s Lobby.

“Two of these so-called ‘personhood’ initiative petitions appeared on the ballot in Colorado in 2008 and in 2010. In both cases, voters defeated these measures by an almost 3 to 1 margin. And there’s a good reason for that,” said Elisa Cafferata, president and CEO of Nevada Advocates for Planned Parenthood Affiliates. “This initiative is an attempt to prevent a woman from making her own personal, private decisions about her health with her family and doctor. It would bring government, lawyers and the courts into our personal lives. It would affect literally thousands of laws, costing our state a fortune to litigate.”

Jan Gilbert from the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada notes, “If this initiative passes, it would not only put a woman’s right to an abortion in danger but also threatens the legality of oral and emergency contraception, IUDs, in vitro fertilization clinics and stem cell research.”

The coalition is evaluating a legal challenge to the deceptive ballot proposal that seeks to extend legal and constitutional rights to a woman’s fertilized eggs.

“Nevada voters have a right to know the full extent and effect of any proposed change to the constitution that they are being asked to vote on,” said Dane Claussen, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada.

A personhood initiative petition was filed in Nevada in 2009. Carson City District Judge James Russell ruled Jan. 8, 2010, that the personhood petition could not be circulated because its language was so vague that voters would not understand its intention. The Nevada Supreme Court on Dec. 30, 2010, dismissed the case without vacating the district court decision.

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