Personhood amendment would ban pill RU-486

CARSON CITY The leader of a Nevada organization that wants to outlaw abortion acknowledged Monday that passage of its Personhood amendment would prohibit women from using pills that induce abortion.

Olaf Vancura, president of Personhood Nevada, said any birth control pill or other forms of contraception that end pregnancies or destroy "newly formed life" would be outlawed if voters approve the proposed constitutional amendment.

Birth control designed to prevent a pregnancy before one occurs would not be prohibited, he said.

"It is really very simple," said Vancura, who described himself as a scientist with a doctorate in physics. "Our amendment is about life and the right to life. Forms of birth control that do not cause an abortion would not be prohibited.

"With an abortion, someone dies."

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada filed a lawsuit in Carson City District Court on Thursday challenging the language in the Personhood amendment as being vague and deceptive. A date for a hearing has not been set.

The proposed amendment’s language does not use the terms abortion or birth control.

It states that a "person" is a human being from the moment of biological development and that persons are entitled to due process rights under the U.S. Constitution.

In coming days, Vancura intends to post on the Web site a list showing acceptable and unacceptable forms of birth control.

Until Monday, no one from Personhood Nevada had acknowledged that some forms of birth control would be prohibited.

However, the ACLU last week pointed out that the proposed amendment would prohibit some types of birth control and outlaw abortions even in the case of rape or incest.

Elisa Maser, legislative lobbyist for Planned Parenthood, said Vancura’s admission that birth control would be limited shows how radical the proposed amendment really is.

"This is an incredibly sweeping and drastic measure," Maser said. "They need to tell folks how far they will go into their private lives."

The RU-486 (Mifeprex or Mifepristone) pill is meant to induce abortion, Maser said.

But the so-called "morning-after pill" is a form of emergency contraception that does not necessarily induce an abortion because the woman does not know if she is pregnant, she said.

A morning-after pill is a high-dose birth control pill that is used in cases where a woman might have had unprotected sex, or "if the condom broke, if you will," Maser said.

The most common emergency contraception pills are called Preven and Plan B. They are birth control pills containing progesterone, estrogen or a combination of both.

However, some anti-abortion activists maintain that the pill and IUDs, or intrauterine devices, not only prevent pregnancies, but also induce abortions.

"Ninety-eight percent of all women use contraception at some time in their lives," Maser said. "We aren’t trying to use scare tactics. But now they (Personhood Nevada) are saying what they intend to accomplish."

The PersonhoodUSA organization has acknowledged that under the proposed amendment, abortion would not be allowed in any case.

PersonhoodUSA, a Christian organization, is a national drive in 31 states to pass amendments or laws in an effort to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision allowing abortion.

Since 1973, 50 million abortions have been conducted in the United States, according to Keith Mason, PersonhoodUSA co-founder.

Before the Nevada Personhood amendment can become law, organizers need to gather 97,002 valid signatures by Aug. 4, and the amendment must be approved by voters on the 2010 and 2012 election ballots.

Vancura said he is not a medical doctor and wants a dialogue from residents about what are and what are not acceptable birth control methods.

But he said RU-486 and emergency contraception pills clearly cause abortions and should be outlawed.

Vancura said opponents will try to obfuscate the issue by noting the amendment would stop abortions in the case of rape of incest.

But he said life begins at the moment of conception.

He said that over the years, life has been "devalued" in the United States.

"Today rational people must agree that life begins at conception," Vancura said. "This is a civil rights issue. The government should not pressure people to die, or young people to have abortions. The right to life is fundamental."

Maser said it cannot be determined scientifically when life begins inside a woman’s body.

"You can tell it in a lab, in a petri dish, but not in the woman’s body," she said.

Richard Ziser, a longtime Las Vegas conservative activist and Personhood Nevada’s campaign manager, announced the petition drive on Oct. 21.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at or 775-687-3901.

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