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Pro-abortion alliance: Enough signatures to qualify for Nevada ballot

Updated May 21, 2024 - 7:01 pm

The coalition behind efforts to put abortion protections on the ballot in November announced they submitted more than 200,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom, a coalition of groups heading the initiative to enshrine abortion protections in the Nevada Constitution, filed the signatures with the secretary of state’s office on Monday. The coalition said it collected nearly double the 102,362 valid signatures required to qualify for the ballot and collected signatures from voters in each of Nevada’s 17 counties.

“The number of signatures gathered in just over three months shows how deeply Nevadans believe in abortion rights and its importance to this moment in our nation’s history,” Lindsey Harmon, president of Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom, said during a news conference Monday outside of the Clark County Government Center.

Abortion within 24 weeks of pregnancy is protected in Nevada through a 1990 voter referendum, and abortion may be performed after 24 weeks if a physician has reasonable cause to believe an abortion is necessary to the health of the pregnant person. The ballot initiative would place the protections in the state constitution rather than just a statute. If passed in November, it would have to appear before voters again in 2026.

“First, I think it’s really important to remember that these are rights that are about protecting your body and making decisions about your body, so I believe that this belongs in the state constitution,” Harmon said. “It’s also doubling down on statutory protections we have, and when you’re a state like Nevada … it’s important that we do everything we absolutely can to protect access in our state, and really to prove to the rest of the nation what it looks like.”

‘Off to the races’

In order for the initiative to appear on the ballot, the secretary of state and county clerks will verify the signatures. After that, the secretary of state will issue a notice of qualification. Once the initiative qualifies for the ballot, Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom will be “off to the races” to educate voters and run the initiative like a campaign, Harmon said.

Nevada has seen a rise in out-of-state abortion seekers since Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022 and nearby states began implementing restrictions. Idaho prohibits nearly all abortions with exceptions for victims of rape or incest, or when the life of the pregnant mother is at risk. In Utah, abortion is banned after 18 weeks of pregnancy. Arizona has a near total ban, although a repeal of the ban will take effect in the fall.

“Physicians like me are horrified to hear stories of patients in other states being denied life-saving health care because of cruel abortion bans,” said Dr. Harpreet Tsui, an internal medicine physician practicing in Henderson, at the news conference.

Pushback

The petition has received pushback from anti-abortion advocates who sought to block the initiative, although a Nevada judge ultimately ruled in the pro-abortion group’s favor, determining it was eligible for signature gathering.

Melissa Clement, president of Nevada Right to Life, criticized the petition initiative’s language, arguing it will give parents no say when their minor daughters seek an abortion, will allow for abortion through all nine months of a pregnancy and will allow practitioners like dentists to perform the procedures.

“This is wrong,” Clement said in a statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “This is not where Nevadans are and it’s exactly why petition gatherers have not been up front with where the language will lead.”

The initiative petition specifically would amend the state constitution to say, “All individuals shall have a fundamental right to abortion performed or administered by a qualified health care practitioner until fetal viability, or when needed to protect the life or health of the pregnant patient, without interference from the state or its political subdivisions.”

Harmon said the initiative’s language is very clear. It asks for qualified health care providers and clarifies that it is seeking protection for an individual’s right to access abortion.

“We’re letting the language stand on its own two feet,” Harmon said.

A judge had rejected an earlier petition that had called for broader protections, including prenatal care, vasectomy and infertility care.

Contact Jessica Hill at jehill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jess_hillyeah on X.

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