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Vigilance needed to preserve a woman’s right to choose

Anti-abortion advocate Chet Gallagher filed an initiative to take away Nevada women’s right to abortion, raising concern among women’s rights groups fearful that the issue put to rest 21 years ago could be resurrected.

Two years ago, social conservative Richard Ziser, representing Personhood Nevada, filed an initiative which by adding “person” to the Nevada Constitution, would have banned abortions, affected hospice care and intruded on end-of-life decisions.

The summary said, “In the great state of Nevada, the term ‘person’ applied to every human being.” The explanation never explained this initiative would ban abortion. It was so vague, a judge blocked the initiative from being circulated.

The Personhood people have said they plan to make another run at it this year, so that would make two abortion initiatives.

Gallagher’s initiative filed Tuesday with Secretary of State Ross Miller’s office identified him as the contact person for the Nevada ProLife Coalition, and at least from the title, it was obvious what this initiative was. It’s the “Unalienable Right to Life of Every Prenatal Person is Protected” petition. Not catchy, but direct.

This language would be added to the state Constitution: “The intentional taking of a prenatal person’s life shall never be allowed in this State. For the purpose of this section only, the terms ‘prenatal person’ includes every human being at all stages of biological development before birth.”

In other words, no abortion for any reason. Not rape. Not incest. Not to save a woman’s life.

To qualify for the 2012 ballot, the Nevada ProLife Coalition must collect 72,352 signatures by June 14. One-third of the signatures must come from each of the three existing congressional districts.

It’s not an easy process, and Gallagher is counting on the churches to get behind the initiative to gather signatures.

My question: Why would Nevadans, who voted 2-to-1 in 1990 to protect a woman’s right to an abortion, have changed their views?

Gallagher believes that over the years the country has moved more toward the pro-life stance and away from the pro-choice positions.

A 2009 Gallup poll supports that belief, saying that for the first time since 1995, more people called themselves pro-life than pro-choice in a 51-42 split.

Yet, a CBS News poll in January said Americans have stayed about the same in their views for the past 15 years. While 20 percent oppose abortion for any reason, 36 percent believe it should be available, and 40 percent say it should be available with restrictions.

“Nevada is a pro-choice state, but we’ve seen that the campaigns for these petitions can be very misleading, so we would never make an assumption that they couldn’t qualify it,” said Elisa Cafferata, president of Nevada Advocates for Planned Parenthood Affiliates. The women’s groups are evaluating a legal challenge.

Gallagher gained fame in 1989 when he was a Las Vegas police officer in uniform who joined protesters outside an abortion clinic.

While I don’t doubt his sincerity, or the sincerity of those who believe an abortion is murder, I think, and hope, he and his coalition are wasting their time.

I covered the 1990 Question 7 issue as a reporter and must have done a fair and balanced job because I received hate mail from people on both sides of the issue. Some 63 percent voted they want a woman to be able to choose an abortion for any reason for the first 24 weeks of the pregnancy, and after that only to preserve the life or health of the woman.

Although it was the most divisive issue that year, I am still amused at the number of politicians who tell me they can’t remember how they voted. Wussies.

I voted for Question 7.

I doubt Nevada has changed so much since 1990 that these anti-abortion initiatives have a prayer of passing.

Perhaps that’s wishful thinking.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call her at (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/Morrison

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