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Nevada Anti-Abortion Measures Proceed To Signature Gathering

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A pro-life activist holds a sign as he participates in the annual "March for Life" event. (credit Alex Wong/Getty Images)

A pro-life activist holds a sign as he participates in the annual “March for Life” event. (credit Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Two Nevada initiatives that seek to ban abortions and limit some forms of birth control will advance to the signature gathering process after opponents decided to forgo further legal challenges to language and descriptions of the petitions, lawyers said Friday.

Backers now have until June 19 to gather more than 72,000 signatures to qualify the proposed constitutional amendments for the November ballot.

“We’re happy to be going forward,” said Chet Gallagher, director of the Nevada Prolife Coalition. “Time is running out. We just need to get people on board.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and a coalition of Planned Parenthood affiliates challenged four earlier attempts on grounds the language was vague and misleading to voters.

ACLU attorney Allen Lichtenstein said that while the groups still disagree with the wording, they’re satisfied voters will understand the ramifications.

“The public or anyone who reads these will be aware of what they’re trying to do,” Lichtenstein told The Associated Press. “They’re trying to ban abortion, birth control.”

“Voters can see through the language that is there and see what rights they are attempting to take away from the people,” he said.

Anna Maria Serra-Radford, president of Personhood Nevada, said her organization hasn’t yet begun gathering signatures but looks forward to bringing the issue before voters.

“That’s all we’ve ever wanted,” she said. “Get the signatures, get it on the ballot and let the people of Nevada decide.”

The personhood measure seeks to add a constitutional provision called “the right to live for young and old alike.”

In a description filed with the secretary of state’s office, backers say the amendment would apply “whenever the life of any human being is jeopardized,” beginning at conception.

It would prohibit some forms of birth control, fertility treatments when selective reduction is used, and embryonic stem cell research.

The other measure sponsored by the Nevada Prolife Coalition would extend protections to “prenatal” persons, ban abortion even in the case of rape or incest, and also outlaw any medical procedure or birth control that “kills a prenatal person.”

“This is not about birth control. This is about ending abortion,” Gallagher said.

If enough signatures are gathered, voters would have to approve the measures in November and again in 2014 to take effect. At that point, Lichtenstein said lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the amendments would be pursued, though he said he doubts the measures will make it that far.

“My prediction is that we will never get a chance to challenge the constitutionality of these initiatives,” he said. “The chances of making the ballot or getting passed, in my mind, are rather minuscule.

Elisa Cafferata, with Nevada Advocates of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, said opponents will focus on educating voters, and said the measures still have a long way to go before becoming law.

“They have an awful lot of hurdles in front of them,” she said of backers.

“We’re going to focus our resources on making sure the voters have a clear view of what they would face if these pass,” Cafferata said.

Not all anti-abortion groups support the personhood movement. A coalition of anti-abortion organizations earlier this year issued a statement opposing the Nevada effort, saying it will hinder their cause in the long run.

“Initiatives like these provide political and financial windfalls to abortion advocates and their candidates,” said the coalition, which included Eagle Forum and Nevada Right to Life.

A previous attempt to qualify a personhood measure in Nevada was blocked in 2010 by a state judge who said the language was vague and violated a single subject rule for initiatives.

Voters in Colorado twice rejected similar efforts, in 2008 and 2010, while voters in Mississippi defeated a personhood initiative last November.

But despite the lack of success, the personhood movement is pressing ballot initiatives in about a dozen states this year.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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