Nevada Abortion-Rights Measure Has Enough Signatures for November Ballot

May 21, 2024by Ken Ritter, Associated Press
Nevada Abortion-Rights Measure Has Enough Signatures for November Ballot
Lindsey Harmon, president, Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom, speaks during a news conference by Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom, Monday, May 20, 2024, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Abortion access advocates in Nevada said Monday that they have submitted almost twice the number of petition signatures needed to qualify a measure for the November ballot that would enshrine reproductive rights in the state constitution.

Supporters collected and submitted more than 200,000 signatures, Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom President Lindsey Harmon told reporters. Proponents need 102,000 valid signatures by June 26 to qualify for the ballot.

“The majority of Nevadans agree that the government should stay out of their personal and private decisions … about our bodies, our lives and our futures,” Harmon said at a rally with about 25 supporters outside the Clark County Government Center in Las Vegas.

Elections officials in Nevada’s 17 counties still must verify signatures and it’s not clear how long that will take.

In Washoe County, spokeswoman Bethany Drysdale said advocates delivered several boxes of signatures to the registrar’s office in Reno. Boxes also went to officials in Clark County, the state’s most populous and Democratic-leaning area, which includes Las Vegas.

Nevada voters approved a law in 1990 that makes abortion available up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, a point considered a marker of fetal viability. But Nevada is one of several states where backers are pressing to strengthen abortion access after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Since then, several Republican-controlled states have tightened abortion restrictions or imposed outright bans. Fourteen states currently ban abortions at all stages of pregnancy, while 25 allow abortions up to 24 weeks or later, with limited exceptions.

Harmon said the effort to collect signatures was “very expensive” but declined to give an exact figure. She noted that the neighboring states of Idaho,Arizona and Utah have stricter abortion rules than Nevada.

Most states with Democratic legislatures have laws or executive orders protecting access. Voters in California, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Ohio and Vermont have sided with abortion rights supporters on ballot measures. Supporters of abortion rights have qualified measures for ballots in Colorado and South Dakota, and Nevada is among nine other states where signature drives have been underway.

The measure would ensure “a fundamental, individual right to abortion” while allowing Nevada to regulate “provision of abortion after fetal viability … except where necessary to protect the life or health of the pregnant individual.”

Melissa Clement, Nevada Right to Life director, told The Associated Press her organization will continue to fight the proposed amendment in courts and at the ballot box.

“As a woman, nothing makes me angrier than Democrats taking one of the most difficult and traumatic decisions a woman can make and using it for political fodder,” Clement said. “Scaring women. It’s despicable.”

Signature-gathering is one of two tracks being taken in Nevada to get the measure on the ballot.

To amend the Nevada Constitution, voters must approve a measure twice. If the abortion amendment qualifies and is approved by voters this year, they would vote on it again in 2026.

In the Legislature, Nevada’s Democratic-majority lawmakers passed a 24-week right-to-abortion measure last year along party lines, teeing the issue up for another vote when lawmakers return next year for their next every-two-years session in Carson City. If approved then, the proposed constitutional amendment would be put on the 2026 statewide ballot.

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