Nevada Supreme Court OKs reproductive freedom petition

Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom, a coalition of reproductive rights groups including the ACLU of Nevada and Planned Parenthood, is working to amend the state constitution to permanently enshrine the state’s abortion rights in the state constitution. (Courtesy of Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom)

By Casey Harrison

April 19, 2024

The ruling won’t impact a referendum voters could see in November, but it established a legal acknowledgment of reproductive care in Nevada, a reproductive rights advocate says.

The Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that a referendum initiative aiming to amend the state’s constitution to add protections for abortion and other reproductive freedoms met requirements to be placed on this year’s general election ballot after a lower court deemed the petition unconstitutional.

In a majority opinion authored by Chief Justice Lidia Stiglich, the court rejected arguments that the petition being circulated by Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom (NRF) was overly broad and misleading, and that itwould create an unfunded mandate if passed. The petition seeks to codify protections of reproductive care, a blanket term that includes matters related to pregnancy, birth control, vasectomies, tubal ligation, abortion, miscarriage management and infertility care.

“The medical procedures considered in the initiative petition concern reproduction. To assert that they could not all be addressed together because they are separate procedures is improper,” the court ruled. “Each medical procedure relates to human reproduction and they are germane to each other and the initiative’s single subject of establishing a right to reproductive freedom.”

Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom president Lindsey Harmon told The Nevadan that because the challenge took months to hear, NRF began collecting signatures on a second petition that more narrowly focuses on amending the Nevada Constitution to add protections for abortion only. That petition has amassed more than 160,000 signatures, surpassing the 102,000 requisite for the June 26 deadline to file the petition with the secretary of state’s office.

MORE: VP Harris urges Nevadans to support abortions rights ballot measure

That measure is the one NRF remains focused on placing on voters’ ballots this year. Still, Harmon called the court’s ruling a huge win for Nevada voters in the long-run.

“[Thursday’s] ruling is an unequivocal recognition of what we’ve always known to be true: The right to reproductive freedom includes all aspects of a person’s reproductive health care,” Harmon said in a press release. “Protecting these rights is essential to ensuring that all Nevadans maintain full control over their own lives, especially as we continue to see attacks on abortion, IVF, birth control and other reproductive health services.”

Though Thursday’s ruling won’t impact the referendum voters could see in November, it established an acknowledgment that reproductive care covers many procedures and medicines, which could be used to craft legislation for the 2025 session and beyond, Harmon said.

A lawyer representing a group that was fighting the voter initiative, the Coalition for Parents and Children, expressed disappointment.

“The Court has transformed the single-subject rule into the single-category rule, which will open the floodgates to broad and deceptive initiative proposals like the one at issue in this case,” Jason Guinasso, one of the group’s attorneys, told the Associated Press. “My clients will now focus on educating the voters on why this proposal is bad law and policy for Nevadans.”

The petition circulating now would enshrine in the constitution abortion protections Nevada voters in 1990 approved that guarantees access to the procedure through 24 weeks of pregnancy. The law also has exceptions beyond 24 weeks to protect the mother’s health.

If approved for the Nov. 5 ballot, voters would need to OK the measure in 2024 and again in 2026 to amend the constitution.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

  • Casey Harrison

    Casey Harrison is political correspondent for The Nevadan. Previously, he covered politics and the Oakland Athletics' relocation to Southern Nevada for the Las Vegas Sun, and before that, was a digital producer at The Detroit News. Casey graduated from Michigan State University in 2019.

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