Judge throws out Nevada ‘personhood’ initiative
Associated Press Writer
A state judge in Carson City threw out a proposed ballot initiative Friday that sought to define a person as “everyone possessing a human genome,” saying the language was too vague and violated state law that limits questions to one subject.
The Nevada Personhood initiative proposed to amend the state Constitution by defining a person and extending due process rights from the beginning of biological development through end of life. The petition does not specifically mention abortion, but says its intent is to codify “the inalienable right to life for everyone, young or old, healthy or ill, conscious or unconscious, born or unborn.”
Carson City District Court Judge James Russell said the measure was too broad and general in nature to be put before voters in November. “The issue to me is, are we adequately informing voters on what they’re voting on,” Russell said.
Besides being vague, Russell said the initiative violates a law limiting referendum questions to a single subject.
“There’s no way for the voter to understand the effects of the initiative,” he said
The ballot question was filed in October, and challenged by three plaintiffs represented by lawyers for Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Voters in Colorado rejected a similar measure in 2008. This year, it is being pursued in about a half dozen states.
Michael Brooks, an attorney for the Nevada personhood movement, said after Friday’s hearing that an appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court was planned.
Lee Rowland, attorney for the ACLU of Nevada, argued that while the initiative would add only 14 words to the constitution, it would have sweeping repercussions throughout state law and the constitution, including abortion rights, contraception and infertility treatments, that are not explained.
“It is making thousands of direct changes,” Rowland said.
Brooks countered that the proposal was not vague, and that “any eight-year-old” could understand it.
“This is far beyond the isolated issue of abortion,” he said. “Just because it’s broad doesn’t mean it’s vague.
Brooks said the intent was to protect the “dignity” of human life, and that any rulings as to how the amendment effected other areas of law would be up to future courts to decide.
Olaf Vancura, a Nevada Personhood leader, said if the Supreme Court overturns Russell’s ruling, the group will have until the middle of the summer to collect about 97,000 signatures to qualify for the November ballot.