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April 17, 2014

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Anti-abortion group says amendment push similar to slavery issue

CARSON CITY – A group that is seeking to ban abortions says its goal to amend the Nevada Constitution is akin to the drive in the 1860s to free slaves.

Personhood Nevada says its efforts in pushing an initiative petition “is analogous to the Slavery Civil Rights issue.”

The group has filed its opening brief, asking the Nevada Supreme Court to overturn the decision of District Judge Todd Russell of Carson City, who ruled the initiative petition couldn't be circulated or put on the ballot because the language was too general and the voters wouldn't understand its effect.

The Supreme Court has agreed to speed up consideration and the final brief should be filed by April 2. No extensions will be granted.

Even if the Supreme Court ruled the issue could be put on the ballot, advocates would have to gather more than 97,000 voter signatures by June 15 for it to qualify.

The initiative petition, filed Oct. 21 with the Secretary of State’s Office, would amend the Nevada Constitution to give “the inalienable right to life for everyone, young or old, health or ill, conscious or unconscious, born or unborn.”

The opening brief filed Thursday, signed by Las Vegas lawyer Michael L. Peters, says the Civil War was fought to correct a “terrible wrong” that blacks were considered property and not people.

This petition, Peters said, seeks a constitutional amendment that every human being from the beginning of life shall be considered a person.

Judge Russell said the language in the initiative petition was too general and vague and failed to give adequate notice to residents of what they would be voting on.

In his January decision, Russell said there is nothing in the language of the initiative petition about abortion and the rights of fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses.

The judge also said the initiative petition was defective because it wasn't limited to a single subject. He said it would affect the issues of constitutional rights to life, search and seizure and have an impact on state criminal laws, and also have many social implications.

Peters, in his brief, argues the petition meets constitutional muster because it is limited to one topic. But he agreed it would have multiple implications if voters approved it at two elections.

Peters said not all citizens agree with the petition, as evidenced by the suit to stop its appearance on the ballot. But he said there should be free speech and debate on the issue.

Those opposing the petition, Peters said, include Planned Parenthood of America and the American Civil Liberties Union.

He said he found it ironic that the American Civil Liberties Union would take “such a strong stance against free speech in this matter.” The ACLU filed suit in November to prevent the initiative from going forward, arguing the language was too vague.

And four conservative groups that have battled for anti-abortion legislation also oppose the initiative. The Nevada Eagle Forum, the Independent American Party, Nevada Families and Nevada Life say the language is too vague and may not apply to abortions at all.

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