‘Personhood’ Measure Kicked Off Nevada Ballot By State Court

A new push by conservative religious activists to overturn legal abortion by passing state constitutional amendments declaring fertilized eggs “persons” suffered a setback in Nevada recently thanks to a judge’s ruling.

A group called Personhood USA has been spearheading the drive. The organization, based in a number of fundamentalist churches, believes it can overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion, by enshrining legal rights for fertilized eggs in state constitutions.

The group’s theory is that once these eggs are legally declared persons, they will be entitled to the full protection of the law and can no longer be subject to abortion.

The effort ran into a roadblock recently when an attempt to put the issue on the Nevada ballot this November failed. A state judge ruled last month that the language put forth by Personhood Nevada was too vague and would confuse voters.

“There is no way anybody can really understand the effect,” District Judge James Russell said.

The language sponsored by Personhood Nevada would have extended legal rights to “everyone possessing a human genome.” Critics said it would have affected hundreds of laws in the state.

The Nevada organization had hoped to collect more than 97,000 signatures to win a spot for the question on the ballot, but Russell’s ruling puts a stop to the drive. Personhood Nevada has vowed to appeal to the state supreme court.

The movement suffered another setback in Colorado, where it succeeded in winning a spot on the ballot in 2008. Voters there rejected the amendment, with only 27 percent voting in favor.

Not all anti-abortion groups support Personhood’s tactic. In Florida, the state Catholic Conference refused to back the drive, and groups like the Eagle Forum and Focus on the Family opposed the Colorado initiative.

Charisma magazine reported that some Religious Right groups believe the personhood amendment could be interpreted in ways that actually strengthen legal abortion.

“Before the wrong court, a more pro-abortion court, a personhood amendment could instigate a ruling that would say, ‘We’re going to elevate abortion to even a higher level,’” Carrie Gordon Earll of Focus on the Family Action told Charisma.