Nevada Court Halts Flawed Proposed Ballot Initiative Aimed At Interfering With Women's Private Health Care Decisions

Affiliate: ACLU of Nevada
January 8, 2010 4:11 pm

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CARSON CITY, NV – In a legal challenge seeking to block the “Personhood Nevada” petition, an initiative that could potentially ban a range of reproductive health care in the state, Judge Russell of the First Judicial District today declared the initiative invalid.

An individual woman, a pharmacist and an obstetrician-gynecologist filed a legal challenge against the petition on November 12, 2009, arguing that the initiative proposes far reaching changes to the Nevada Constitution and laws, is misleading and fails to give voters a clear understanding of the changes it proposes and its purpose and effect.

“I am pleased that the court recognized that the initiative was confusing and failed to tell voters that it would affect access to reproductive health services,” said Emmily Bristol, one of the plaintiffs.

The initiative attempted to re-define the term “person” to include a fertilized egg and all subsequent stages of prenatal development. According to the initiative’s proponents, the newly defined “persons” would have full constitutional rights under the Nevada Constitution. The initiative could have banned all abortions and commonly used forms of birth control. In addition, it could have interfered with doctors’ ability to treat life-threatening pregnancies, miscarriages, and infertility, as well as banned some stem cell research and other life-saving therapies and cures.

“Today’s decision rightfully prevents this sweeping and misleading initiative from being placed on the 2010 ballot,” said Lee Rowland, one of the attorneys for plaintiffs. “This initiative could have impacted literally thousands of laws, inviting lawyers and the courts to reinterpret every Nevada law and regulation that contains the word ‘person’ all at the expense of Nevada taxpayers. The key problem is that it covered too many issues, and failed to explain to voters its intent and impact on Nevada law.”

Plaintiffs in today’s legal challenge, Bristol v. Personhood Nevada, include Emmily Bristol, Dr. Mindy Hsu, and Dr. William Ramos. Lawyers on the case include John Griffin and Jason Woodbury, Kaempfer Crowell Renshaw Gronauer & Fiorentino in Carson City, Rowland and Maggie McLetchie of the ACLU of Nevada, Mimi Liu, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Diana Kasdan, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

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