Sponsors pull abortion initiative to join forces with personhood group

CARSON CITY -- Sponsors of one anti-abortion initiative in Nevada withdrew their proposed constitutional amendment Tuesday to join forces and help gather signatures for a competing but similar personhood measure.

The initiative, "Unalienable Right to Life of Prenatal Persons is Protected," was withdrawn by the Nevada Prolife Coalition.

Organizers said they will work with members of Personhood Nevada to collect signatures for its proposal, "The Right to Life for Young and Old Alike."

"Working in tandem on only one prolife personhood initiative, rather than two, will make the best use of the limited time remaining before the June 19 deadline," said Chet Gallagher, director of Nevada Prolife Coalition. "It's still a big job, but pooling our resources may provide the edge we need to succeed in this important task."

Both measures would define life as beginning at conception and prohibit some forms of birth control, fertility treatments when selective reduction is used, and embryonic stem cell research.

The remaining initiative states: "No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. As used in this section, the word 'person' includes every human being from the beginning of biological development until death."

Sponsors must collect more than 72,000 signatures by the June deadline to qualify for the ballot. If that hurdle is cleared, voters would need to approve it in November and again in 2014 to take effect.

Tuesday's withdrawal is the fourth time Nevada Prolife Coalition has pulled its initiative measure. The other three times it was rewritten and resubmitted.

Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union and Nevada Advocates of Planned Parenthood Affiliates said they would not file any more legal challenges to the measures' language or descriptions of effect, allowing them to proceed to the signature gathering phase.

The first personhood initiative proposed for this year's ballot was rejected in the fall by a state judge, who said it was vague and misleading. A similar measure in Nevada was denied by the courts two years ago.

But proponents are undaunted.

"Being united in this labor of love is a winnable strategy and all of us are in it to win, to get it done together," Gallagher said.

Voters in Colorado twice rejected similar efforts, in 2008 and 2010, while voters in Mississippi defeated a personhood initiative in November.

Despite the lack of success, the personhood movement is pressing ballot initiatives in about a dozen states this year.