District Judge James Wilson in Carson City ruled from the bench against Personhood Nevada after an hour-long hearing. The group’s proposed initiative sought to add seven words to the Nevada Constitution: “The term ‘person’ includes every human being.”
While Personhood board members and Gary Kreep, an attorney who argued for the group, denied their intent was to target abortion, the judge said court pleadings and affidavits filed in the case suggested otherwise.
Wilson grilled Kreep, executive director of the conservative group United States Justice Foundation, on the initiative’s wording.
“It looks to me like this is excessively broad. It covers who knows what,” the judge said.
The judge questioned Kreep about language that said the state has an obligation to protect the inalienable rights of “all persons from the beginning of biological development,” and a statement in the description that “some human beings are being deprived of their civil rights.”
“Who does that refer to?” Wilson asked.
“The unborn, your honor,” Kreep replied.
In making his ruling, Wilson said, “If the purpose is to establish when a human life begins, then it ought to say that in the text and it doesn’t.”
Opponents, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Nevada Advocates of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, argued the measure violated the state’s “single subject” rule for initiatives and would effectively impose restrictions on common birth control methods, in vitro fertilization treatment and embryonic stem cell research.
The ramifications would go even further, essentially reaching into “virtually all laws” law where the term person is used, ACLU attorney Alexa Kolbi-Molinas said.
“There’s no way to even discern what the purpose of the initiative is,” she said. “Any person looking at this initiative would merely think they are stating a fact.”
Backers would await the judge’s written order before deciding whether to appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court, Kreep said.
Elisa Cafferata, executive director of the Planned Parenthood affiliates, was pleased with the swift ruling.
“We’re pleased that the judge agreed it did not meet the requirements of letting voters know what they’re voting on,” she said.
Wednesday’s ruling comes a month after the Personhood movement flamed out in Mississippi, with 58 percent of voters there rejecting a proposed state constitutional amendment to give fetuses the same rights as people. Mississippi has some of the nation’s toughest abortion regulations, but opponents of the measure successfully stressed that it would limit birth control.
Earlier this week, Wilson gave another group, Nevada Prolife Coalition, approval to collect signatures on a similar measure, but rewrote its description to better explain its effects. Backers of that effort must collect more than 72,000 signatures by June to get the measure on the 2012 ballot.