Bill that provoked abortion debate revived in Senate
A bill that sparked debate on abortion was revived Tuesday in the Nevada Senate, when a lawmaker announced that he would attach it to a measure intended to penalize men who fake paternity tests.
Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, complained that even though SB299 was carefully amended to steer clear of the abortion debate, it never even came up for a vote in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
“We fixed the bill,” said Amodei, adding that an amendment by the Senate’s Democratic minority leader, Sen. Dina Titus, “made it strictly crime and punishment.”
The sponsor of SB299, Sen. Warren Hardy, R-Las Vegas, said the bill was meant to help a constituent who miscarried her child after being hit by a drunken driver. Nevada has additional penalties already in law for those who injure pregnant women, but law enforcement lobbyists said they didn’t apply in the case of Hardy’s constituent.
Originally, the bill would have declared an “unborn child” to be a separate and distinct victim in case of any crime. Abortion rights activists said that establishing “fetal personhood” under the law would open the door for abortion opponents to sue pregnant women or their doctors; anti-abortion activists said that recognizing the fetus as a person was exactly what was needed.
That controversial language was deleted after Hardy worked with Titus, D-Las Vegas, to amend the bill.
The amended bill doesn’t mention fetuses or children. Instead, it doubles the jail or prison sentence for certain crimes committed against a pregnant woman, including assault, battery, robbery, and murder. It also mandates prison terms of up to 20 years for any drunken driver who causes a woman to miscarry.
Even though it passed the Senate unanimously, the compromise didn’t entirely satisfy partisans on either side. In an Assembly hearing, anti-abortion activists implored lawmakers to restore the original language, while abortion rights supporters still railed against the bill, which they said created different levels of rights for pregnant women and fetuses.
Now, Amodei said he intends to include Hardy’s bill in AB90, a bill intended to punish men who avoided paternity tests by having friends take them. There’s still a need for the bill, he said.
“A drunk driver who hits a pregnant woman shouldn’t be treated the same as one who hits a guy,” said Amodei.