Judge Rejects Attempt To Codify Abortion in Nevada Constitution

Nov 27, 2023

CARSON CITY, NV – A Nevada district court judge recently rejected a 2024 ballot initiative that sought to enshrine abortion in the state’s constitution by judging the petition as “misleading” and in violation of the “single subject rule” for constitutional amendments.

The initiative proposed to add a new section to Nevada’s Constitution that would bar the state regulating abortion before “fetal viability.” If passed by voters, the petition would have prohibited the state from interfering in a person’s decisions regarding “all matters relating to pregnancy.”

The petition states, “Every individual has a fundamental right to reproductive freedom,” and lists “prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, birth control, vasectomy, tubal ligation, abortion, abortion care, management of a miscarriage and infertility care” as areas where an individual has the right to make decisions “without limitation.”

District Court Judge James T. Russell agreed with CPC’s argument and blocked Nevada from placing the proposed amendment on next year’s ballot.

Judge Russell wrote, “This Court agrees with Plaintiffs that the Petition embraces a multitude of subjects that amount to logrolling. Subsection 1 purportedly creates a ‘fundamental right to reproductive. freedom,’ but there is no limiting language in that section to circumscribe that right such that the section embraces a single and articulable subject. For instance, it is unclear how a vasectomy relates to infertility care or postpartum care. Likewise, it is unclear how postpartum care is related to abortions or birth control. Thus, it is improper to characterize these broad categories as a ‘single subject’ because there is no explanation as to how these provisions are functionally related.”

Judge Russell also noted the amendment claimed it would not limit “equality” or “equal protection,” yet it failed to define those terms. The judge concluded the amendment was “misleading” because its language “fails to explain” how the new law would or would not impact those issues.

“While the right to ‘equal protection’ is well established in American jurisprudence, it is unclear what the term ‘equality’ means legally,” wrote Judge Russell. “Given the breadth of this petition, it is unclear how the [petitioner] could describe it accurately in 200-words, which further supports this Court's conclusion that the Petition fails to embrace a single subject.”

The petition’s supporters state they will appeal to the Nevada State Supreme Court. In 1990, voters in Nevada approved its current law allowing abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, with an exception after 24 weeks to preserve the life or health of the unborn child’s mother.

Liberty Counsel filed a similar challenge to a proposed pro-abortion amendment to the Florida Constitution. That challenge is pending at the Florida Supreme Court.

The Centers for Disease Control recently released new data showing abortions increased five percent in 2020-2021, which was the year before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and determined the Constitution does not guarantee a “right” to an abortion. The Dobbs decision overturned Roe in June 2022, and at least 14 states now have active near-total abortion bans and at least three states have active six-week fetal heartbeat laws.

According to Susan B. Anthony Pro-life America, an estimated 60,000 lives have been saved in the year following the Dobbs decision because of these laws. Furthermore, the Institute of Labor Economics published a study in November 2023 indicating at least 32,000 babies were born in the first half of 2023 that would have otherwise been aborted without abortion laws in place.

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Amending a state constitution requires a clear purpose and concise language so the voter understands the amendment’s true effect. This Nevada abortion amendment was written to mislead Nevada voters to enshrine killing unborn babies under the broad guise of ‘reproductive freedom.’ Misleading amendments like this must be rejected. Abortion harms women and cruelly kills defenseless children in the womb.”

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