Initiative would allow government to intrude on all Nevadans’ personhood

I don’t doubt Richard Ziser’s sincerity, but I am tired of him telling me how to live my life. Now he wants to tell me how to die.

The man who couldn’t come within spitting distance of unseating U.S. Sen. Harry Reid in 2004, now wants sweeping changes in Nevada’s abortion and end-of-life laws.

At my age, I’m not so concerned about an abortion, but I’ve made end-of-life decisions for myself in a legal directive, and now Ziser wants a say in that.

His initiative would ban abortion by adding a definition of "person" to Nevada’s Constitution. Got human DNA? You’re a person, inside the womb or out.

The initiative filed Wednesday also would intrude on end-of-life decisions and affect hospice care.

The American Life League, a Roman Catholic group opposing abortion and euthanasia, is supporting these efforts in eight states, but a representative didn’t have answers to my questions about how this initiative would affect end of life and hospice, saying that would be up to the Legislature.

"This initiative will lay a groundwork for those decisions to be made," said Johanna Dasteel from American Life League. She couldn’t say whether I would be forced to have a feeding tube against my wishes or whether pain medication that might hasten my death would be prohibited. She said someone in a coma couldn’t be taken off life support if this initiative passes.

How’s that for government intrusion?

The abortion fight should have been put to rest in 1990, when 63 percent of Nevada voters voted for Question 7. It said Nevada law will be the same as Roe v. Wade, that a woman should have unrestricted access to an abortion in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. After that an abortion is legal if a doctor deems it necessary to preserve a woman’s life or health.

In 1990, Question 7 stirred deep passions, forcing politicians to pick sides (After it passed, pro-life candidates could say the law is the will of the people.)

The two-to-one margin of victory was a clear sign Republicans, Democrats and nonpartisans supported abortion rights. It’s hard to believe Ziser’s contention that Nevadans have changed their views.

Ziser has had better luck as an initiative-pusher than he has as a candidate: for U.S. Senate or the Clark County School Board.

Ziser succeeded in harnessing forces to pass an initiative defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The Legislature did an end-run and legalized "domestic partnerships" giving heterosexual and same-sex couples partnerships in a civil contract, starting Oct. 1.

Was Ziser’s Coalition for the Protection of Marriage really a victory or just a get-out-the-vote effort for conservatives?

If this initiative makes the ballot in 2010 and again in 2012, it will hurt conservative Republicans, who should flee from "Personhood Nevada" like a bad case of cooties. Candidates now will be forced to say whether they’re for or against "personhood," whatever that really means.

The Reno Gazette-Journal already did the legwork and asked leading candidates where they stand on the personhood initiative.

Already against it: Gubernatorial candidates Brian Sandoval and Rory Reid.

Republicans who don’t know yet but should know better: Gov. Jim Gibbons and U.S. Senate candidates Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian.

To qualify, 97,000 Nevadans must sign the petition. When someone asks you to sign it, rest assured it will not be clear what you are signing.

The bold summary says: "In the great state of Nevada, the term ‘person’ applies to every human being."

That sounds innocuous enough.

Nowhere does it say this bans abortion. Nowhere does it say the definition might negate Nevadans’ living wills.

The initiative does say guaranteeing due process rights to all humans "eliminates discrimination against Nevadans at the beginning of life and prohibits state intrusion in end of life decisions."

Actually, it seems just the opposite. The personhood initiative guarantees state intrusion into abortion and end-of-life decisions.

Perhaps the initiative won’t qualify, but because people tend to sign anything, it might, thanks to Richard Ziser, head of the Nevada Personhood Committee, a sincere man who wants every person to live the way he thinks they should.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at

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