More than 200,000 Nevadans support effort to put abortion rights on November ballot

People hold signs during a news conference by Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom, Monday, May 20, 2024, in Las Vegas. Abortion access advocates in Nevada said Monday they've submitted twice the number of petition signatures needed to qualify for a ballot measure aimed at enshrining what they term reproductive rights in the state constitution. (AP Photo/John Locher)

By Jannelle Calderón

May 21, 2024

The Secretary of State will determine whether the reproductive rights amendment qualifies for the November ballot, and advocates are optimistic, having submitted more than double the number of signatures required by law.

The reproductive rights amendment petition that would enshrine abortion protections into the state constitution has gathered more than 200,000 signatures — nearly double the required number to qualify for the November ballot — the Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom PAC announced Monday.

“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 at a press conference in Las Vegas.

The group canvassed and gathered support in all 17 of Nevada’s counties over the last three months and have turned in the signatures to the secretary of state’s office, which will review the signatures to determine if the petition qualifies for the November ballot.

Statewide petitions need at least 102,362 valid signatures from registered Nevada voters, including at least 25,591 signatures from each of the four congressional districts in Nevada. Once the signatures are verified by the secretary of state’s office, the ballot measure will be approved and Nevadans will be able to vote on it in the general election.

“It’s an absolute celebration day, and we couldn’t be more excited. This is a moment in history, not only for the state of Nevada, but for those of us who’ve worked so hard to get here,” Harmon said. “We’ve been working on this since 2018. So we are very proud to be standing before all of you, and so thankful that we’ve had so much support and all of our volunteers who are really the backbone of this campaign.”

The ballot question would ask voters whether they want to amend the state constitution to include the right to an abortion up to 24 weeks. The proposed language also states that individuals or any health care provider “who acts consistent with the applicable scope and practice of providing reproductive health care services” cannot be penalized or prosecuted.

If approved by the secretary of state’s office, the ballot measure will need to pass with a simple majority of the vote in November 2024 in order for it to appear again on the 2026 ballot; a second passage is required to amend the state constitution.

“I am deeply looking forward to Election Day. And I’m also looking forward to winning and winning by a large margin, because I think that we can do it,” Harmon said. “And show the rest of the nation and demonstrate that even in a purple state that you can win on this issue.”

Nevadans voted to codify abortion up to 24 weeks in 1990, but that can be changed with another referendum vote. Amending the state’s constitution would make it more difficult to undo these protections.

The effort to strengthen protections for abortion rights in Nevada comes amid the fear of a potential national ban on abortion if former President Donald Trump wins the election, and as Republicans in the neighboring states of Idaho, Utah and Arizona have banned or attempted to ban abortion.

“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. It’s also doubling down on statutory protections we have,” Harmon said. “When you’re surrounded by states like Idaho, Utah, and Arizona, it’s important that we do everything we absolutely can to protect access in our state.”

A road with many turns

Monday’s milestone comes after months of uncertainty for the Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom PAC, which originally sought to place a broader measure on the ballot that sought to enshrine “fundamental right to reproductive freedom,” including abortion care, birth control, prenatal care, vasectomy, tubal ligation, and infertility care into the state Constitution.

But a Carson City District Judge ruled last year that including all those kinds of care within a single ballot question was too broad and unconstitutional. That ruling was ultimately overturned last month, when the Nevada Supreme Court ruled in favor of granting ballot access to the broader petition.

Despite the Nevada Supreme Court’s ruling, Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom continued to gather support for the narrower petition focused only on abortion rights that simply “seeks to build upon and improve existing statutory protections.”

“Because of time constraints, we have opted to pursue version two. So the initial, broader version will not be on the ballot in 2024,” Harmon said.

The biggest challenge facing the ballot effort has been educating and engaging voters, Harmon said. Although many are informed about abortion and reproductive care access, the question they ask, she said, is usually “What does it mean to be in the constitution?”

The next step, she said, is to run a campaign on the ballot question and continue to inform and engage voters.

“As soon as we qualify, we will be off to the races to work to run this just like a campaign, knowing that we have to put everything we have on the table for 2024,” Harmon said. “We know that we will do well in this state. And we really want to show what support for abortion access looks like in a state like Nevada.”

  • Jannelle Calderón

    Jannelle Calderón is a bilingual politics and community multimedia reporter with a passion to highlight the human side to policy and issues as well as showcasing the vibrant cultures found in Southern Nevada. She previously reported for The Nevada Independent and graduated from UNLV.

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