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Judge rejects Nevada ballot initiative seeking to make abortion a right

MEGAN JELINGER/AFP via Getty Images
MEGAN JELINGER/AFP via Getty Images

A judge in Nevada has rejected a ballot initiative that would have allowed voters to decide whether to add a right to an abortion in the state constitution, having ruled that the proposal was misleading.

In a decision released last week, District Judge James T. Russell rejected a ballot initiative aimed at creating a constitutional amendment that would establish a “fundamental right to reproductive freedom.”

Russell concluded that the proposed amendment “embraces a multitude of subjects that amount to logrolling” and that there was “no limiting language” in the proposal “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,” he wrote.

“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.”

The judge also took issue with subsection 3 of the petition, which would bar the government from punishing any person on the basis of the “actual, potential, perceived or alleged outcome of the pregnancy of the individual, including, without limitation, a miscarriage, stillbirth or abortion.”

“This section of the Petition would essentially bar the State from making any investigation of a miscarriage or stillbirth. It is unclear how this provision functionally relates to postpartum care, birth control, tubal ligation, vasectomies, and infertility care,” he continued.

The Coalition for Parents and Children PAC, which filed a lawsuit to block the proposed state constitutional amendment, released a statement on Monday celebrating the ruling.

Coalition spokesperson and attorney Jason Guinasso claimed in the statement that the ruling marked “the first time that a legal challenge of this kind has been successful in the country” since the overturning of Roe v. Wade last year.

“It is the correct decision as the initiative is in violation of Nevada law. The initiative covers more than a single subject and is grossly misleading in part due to the ambiguity of what ‘reproductive freedom’ is meant to represent,” said Guinasso.

“The proposed right encompasses an abyss of subjects and the proponents have not thought through the foreseeable consequences of what they are proposing in their initiative. This includes the potential fiscal impact on Nevada taxpayers.”

Nevadans for Reproductive Rights, which had filed the proposed amendment in September, released a statement on Monday saying they will likely appeal the ruling.

“[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,” said NRR President Lindsay Harmon, according to The Associated Press.

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