CARSON CITY -- A bill that sparked debate on abortion was revived Tuesday in the state 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 though Senate Bill 299 was changed to steer clear of the abortion debate, it never came up for a vote in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
Amodei said that an amendment to the bill by the Senate's Democratic minority leader, Dina Titus of Las Vegas, "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 for those who injure pregnant women, but law enforcement lobbyists said they did not apply in the case of Hardy's constituent.
The bill would have declared an "unborn child" to be a separate and distinct victim in case of any crime. Abortion rights activists said establishing "fetal personhood" under the law would open the door for abortion opponents to sue pregnant women or their doctors. Anti-abortion activists said recognizing the fetus as a person was what was needed.
That controversial language was deleted after Hardy worked with Titus to change the bill.
The amended bill does not mention fetuses or children. Instead, it would double the jail or prison sentence for certain crimes committed against a pregnant woman, including assault, battery, robbery and murder. The bill would require prison terms of up to 20 years for any drunken driver who causes a woman to miscarry.
Though it passed the Senate unanimously, the compromise did not satisfy partisans on either side.
In an Assembly hearing, anti-abortion activists implored lawmakers to restore the original language, while abortion rights supporters railed against the bill, which they said created different levels of rights for pregnant women and fetuses.
Amodei said he plans to include Hardy's bill in Assembly Bill 90, a bill intended to punish men who avoid paternity tests by having friends take them. A need for the bill exists, he said.
"A drunk driver who hits a pregnant woman shouldn't be treated the same as one who hits a guy," Amodei said.