Advocates for Nevada Personhood Initiative Have Different Strategies for Success
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Personhood Nevada and the Nevada ProLife Coalition have the same goal. They want to amend the Nevada constitution to state life begins at conception, therefore banning abortions, some types of birth control and any procedure that quote "is proven to kill a prenatal person," like in-vitro fertilization and stem cell research.
But the two groups have different views on how to get their separate initiatives approved in court.
The Nevada Pro Life Coalition focuses only on the prenatal person, while Personhood Nevada's petition goes a little further. According to the petition filed on the Secretary of State's website, it aims to protect, quote "the right to live for young and old."
"They wanted to do something more broad, despite the fact they have been twice defeated in court," said Chet Gallagher with the Nevada Pro-life Coalition. "We agree with what theyre' trying to do. We just think it's more important that we're direct with the voting public that were trying to end abortion."
Both groups say there's no bad blood between them, just different strategies.
"Whichever initiative does meet the muster in the court, where we're legally able to present to the voters, we'll come on full board with them or them with us, Gallagher said. "There's really no harm at this point."
But University of Nevada, Reno Political Scientist Eric Herzik says having two initiatives is harmful. He says multiple initiatives creates confusion among voters.
"It just makes the groups look even more extreme. They can't even agree amongst themselves what qualifies as a personhood initiative," he said.
Meanwhile, there are other anti-abortion groups in the state that say a constitutional amendment is the wrong strategy. Don Nelson, the president of Nevada Life, says failure to pass a similar initiative in Mississippi shows it can't succeed.
"To lose in one of the most pro-life states...where abortion is so regulated, we don't think it'll have a chance in Nevada. It just shows this is not a strategy that's successful," Nelson said.
Nevada Life is a part of a coalition that opposed the initiative. They think the best strategy is to have elected officials decide the issue. But Anna Serra-Radford with Personhood Nevada says lawmakers would not make a difference.
"We're at the mercy of the court, we're at the mercy of the judge," she said. "With the legislature, you'd be at the mercy of those legislators."
Serra-Radford also says opposition from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood makes it difficult to get through the petition process.
When the group files a petition with the Secretary of State, opponents have 15 days to file a lawsuit opposing it.
"I'm sure they'll[ACLU] wait until the 11th hour to file their paperwork," she said.
That's because the longer opponents wait to file, the less time personhood advocates will have to collect the 72,000 signatures needed by June 19 to get the initiative on the November ballot.
But Stacey Pratt with the ACLU says it's the Personhood Initiative groups that are making it a difficult process.
"Instead of listening to the court, they withdrew the petition and filed a new one. So we put in a challenge to that and they withdrew the petition and put in a new one," she said.
"I think if anything the folks who are presenting the Personhood petitions are the ones who are creating a process that's difficult to follow for the average voter and difficult to understand," Pratt said.
A court date has yet to be set for the latest petition, filed February 8.