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Nevada Supreme Court (Photo: Megan Barth for The Nevada Globe)

NV Supreme Court Rules Abortion Ballot Initiative Constitutional

The ruling allows for voters to decide if ‘reproductive freedom’ should be enshrined in Nevada’s constitution

By Megan Barth, April 18, 2024 4:19 pm

Overturning a district court’s ruling, the Nevada Supreme Court sided with the plaintiff, Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom (NRF), to move forward with a ballot initiative, the Reproductive Freedom Amendment, that would enshrine “reproductive freedom” into the Nevada constitution. NRF previously announced they had gathered 110,0000 signatures, 50 percent of their goal, and are on track to gather enough valid signatures for the initiative to appear on November’s ballot.

Carson District Court Judge James Russell granted the prior injunction, finding the initiative petition invalid for three reasons: (1) it does not contain a single subject,(2) its description of effect is misleading, and (3) it requires an expenditure of money without raising the necessary revenue.

Senator Cannizzaro flanked by pro-abortion organizations and supporters (Photo: @PPVotesNV)

In their ruling (see below), the Supreme Court determined that the District court “erred” in that all medical procedures relating to “reproductive freedom” are not separate procedures, in that each procedure relates to human reproduction. The procedures included in the proposed constitutional amendment are prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, birth control, vasectomy, tubal ligation, abortion, abortion care, management of a miscarriage and infertility care.

The Supreme Court also found that the language of the petition was not misleading, but was “straightforward, succinct, and non argumentative” and “did not require an expenditure of money.”

The Reproductive Freedom Amendment was filed with the Nevada Secretary of State last September by Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom PAC. The PAC is spearheaded by Lindsey Harmon, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Votes NV.

Harmon referenced the “fallout” from the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the federal, not constitutional, protections granted by Roe v. Wade as the reason to take the initiative to Nevada voters.

“The fallout of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade has shown us that we have already suffered one year too long without the guaranteed right to reproductive freedom, and we simply cannot afford to stand by and allow any further encroachment on the fundamental right of Nevadans to determine their own reproductive lives and care,” Harmon said in a prior statement to NBC news.

In relation to abortion, the NRF amendment includes “mental health” as a risk/reason for a “individual” to receive a late-term abortion. The mental health of the individual will be determined by an ambiguous “health care provider,” who may or may not be a physician according to Nevada statute.

Language from the Reproductive Freedom Amendment (Screenshot)

Senate Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) took to X (formerly Twitter) to celebrate the decision, noting that “fringe radicals won’t stop Nevada’s progress.”

Cannizzaro was the lead sponsor of Senate Joint Resolution 7 (SJR-7) and Senate Bill 131 (SB-131) during the last legislative session. The legislation passed along party lines and must pass through another legislative session to appear on the 2026 ballot.

SJR7 mirrors the wording of the NRF’s ballot initiative in that it too would guarantee “a fundamental right to reproductive freedom,” authorize “the state to regulate abortion care after fetal viability with certain exceptions” and prevent the state from penalizing or prosecuting an individual exercising the “right to reproductive freedom” which would include, “without limitation, prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, birth control, vasectomy, tubal litigation, abortion, abortion care, management of a miscarriage and infertility care.”

In February 2023, Cannizzaro introduced SB 131 that codified former Governor Sisolak’s executive order on abortion which eliminated the ability of any healthcare licensing board to disqualify potentially unsafe abortionists from practicing in Nevada; prohibited the Governor from surrendering, or issuing a warrant of arrest for, a person in this State who is charged in another state with a criminal violation of the laws of that other state; and, prohibited state agencies in the Executive Department of the State Government from providing assistance in a criminal investigation initiated in another state. 

Governor Lombardo signed SB131 into law.

Governor Lombardo stand withs Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro after signing SB131 (Photo: @Nicole4Nevada)

Nevadans passed an initiative in 1990 that codified abortions up to six months of pregnancy with extended protections if the life, not mental health, of the mother is threatened. The overturn of Roe v. Wade does not change Nevada law, but, according to critics, the Reproductive Freedom Amendment does in that it removes the six month limitation and expands abortion to the moment of birth when the undefined health or mental health of the mother is at risk.

Additionally, as Nevada is the number one state for human trafficking, the absence of parental consent for abortion has been an ongoing concern that is currently in litigation.

Although Nevada has a parental notification statute, the statute was enjoined soon thereafter as part of the Glick v McKay case decided by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The law was found unconstitutional and the injunction has remained in place.

A minor girl can get an abortion in Nevada without a parent knowing or consenting, regardless of age. Nevada Right to Life released this statement regarding the necessity of parental notification:

The problem of adult male predators illustrates the vital importance of having parental involvement laws in every state. Not only do parental involvement laws enable parents to help their daughter with her pregnancy, but they also bring to the light the often illegal and detrimental situation in which the pregnancy arose. Parental involvement laws protect minor girls from adult predatory males. Abortion enables adult men to protect themselves by covering up their misconduct, which in turn allows them to continue to prey on minors.

A 2015 bill that would have reinstated parental notification requirements in Nevada did not become law.

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