A Nevada judge has rejected a petition by pro-abortion groups to include a question on the 2024 ballot that seeks to establish access to abortion as a constitutional right throughout the state.
In a ruling issued on Tuesday, District Court Judge James Russell declared that the proposed measure—intending to amend the Nevada Constitution to ensure a right to “all matters relating to pregnancy,” including infertility care, birth control, vasectomy, abortion, and prenatal and postpartum care—is overly expansive to be included on the ballot as a single-subject question.
“The Petition embraces a multitude of subjects that amount to logrolling,” Mr. Russell wrote in the opinion, noting that the pro-abortion petitioners failed to offer any explanation as to how all those subjects are “functionally related” to each other.
“For instance, it is unclear how a vasectomy relates to infertility care or postpartum care,” he wrote. “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.'”
“The Legislature could not reduce ‘reproductive health’ to a single statute, let alone a single statutory chapter,” the judge added.
Furthermore, Mr. Russell pointed out that the question would implicitly require a funding source. If the measure were to be approved, the state would require funds to establish a panel or board responsible for assessing whether a healthcare provider adhered to the standard of care when performing an abortion.
The Nevada Constitution bars any citizen-initiated ballot measure that calls for additional spending unless it includes a “sufficient tax” or otherwise “provides for raising the necessary revenue.”
However, this pro-abortion initiative failed to specify how the state would finance the legal entity tasked with safeguarding the proposed “reproductive rights.”
“If no board is created … then the plain meaning of the petition would be rendered meaningless,” said Mr. Russell. “This is an unfunded mandate.”
The pro-abortion groups leading the effort, including Planned Parenthood and the Nevada chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), asserted that the suggested constitutional amendment would not “narrow or limit the rights to equality and equal protection.” Mr. Russell called such description “misleading.”
“It is unclear what the term ‘equality’ means legally,” he wrote.
Crucially, as per the judge, the petitioners failed the crucial detail that the constitutional amendment would effectively reduce protection for pregnant women by preventing the state from holding healthcare providers responsible for miscarriage or stillbirth.
“[The Petition] vaguely states, ‘the State may not penalize, prosecute, or take adverse action against any individual based on the outcome of the pregnancy of the individual,'” Mr. Russell explained.
“This is misleading because it does not delineate the fact that the petition will prevent the State from investigating or taking action against any miscarriage or stillborn birth,” he added.
The pro-abortion advocates are planning to appeal Mr. Russell’s ruling to the Nevada Supreme Court.
“We will not let one judge’s misguided ruling deter us from giving Nevadans the opportunity to vote to permanently protect their reproductive rights in the Nevada Constitution,” Lindsay Harmon, president of pro-abortion group Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom, on Wednesday said in a statement.
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