A Nevada judge on Monday ruled (.pdf) that his state’s proposed “fetal personhood” measure, which would outlaw abortion by defining life as beginning at the moment of conception, is misleading and confusing to voters. As part of his decision, the judge rewrote the initiative to include language that makes it less vague.
Nevada law requires that all initiatives be accompanied by an official explanation of their effects, so that voters can make more informed decisions. But the explanation accompanying the Nevada personhood measure only discussed its effects on the legality of abortion, and said nothing about the effects it could have on other health care services.
Critics of personhood measures have long argued that redefining life could have several unintended consequences, potentially affecting cancer and disease research, as well as in vitro fertilization.
Yesterday’s ruling is likely a setback for personhood supporters, many of whom have argued that their measures would not limit women’s access to basic health care services or birth control, and would only ban abortion.
Despite those claims, Nevada District Judge James E. Wilson ordered the Nevada Prolife Coalition, the group sponsoring the amendment, to include the following language in the initiative before it can begin collecting signatures:
The initiative would protect a prenatal person regardless of whether or not the prenatal person would live, grow, or develop in the womb or survive birth; prevent all abortions even in the case of rape, incest, or serious threats to the woman’s health or life, or when a woman is suffering from a miscarriage, or as an emergency treatment for an ectopic pregnancy. The initiative will impact some rights Nevada women currently have to access certain fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization. The initiative will impact some rights Nevada women currently have to utilize some forms of birth control, including the “pill;” and to access certain fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization. The initiative will affect embryonic stem cell research, which offers potential for treating diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, and others.
Though many have deemed the personhood movement “extreme,” it’s not just fringe groups that support the measures. Presidential candidates Michele Bachman, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry have all signed a pledge to support personhood.
The Nevada Prolife Coalition must collect 72,352 valid signatures by June to get the measure on the state’s 2012 ballot.
According to a spokesperson for Personhood’s Florida affiliate, the movement to place a personhood amendment on Florida’s 2014 ballot is currently underway.