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Proposed Nevada ballot initiatives seek parental notification for minors’ abortion

Riley Snyder
Riley Snyder
Election 2022Health Care
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Anti-abortion advocates have filed a pair of ballot initiatives, one of which would require parent notification before a minor receives an abortion, save for legal intervention.

The petition was filed along with a companion initiative explicitly granting parents the right to “access and review all medical records” of their child and to “make and consent to all decisions regarding the physical and mental healthcare of the child." Both were filed with the secretary of state’s office on Tuesday.

Both measures are statutory initiatives and were filed by a political action committee — “Protect Our Girls” — led by leaders of Nevada Right to Life. The PAC filed a similar ballot question in March 2020, but backers of the measure never gathered enough signatures to make it on the ballot.

Nevada Right to Life Executive Director Melissa Clement said in an email that she hoped the initiatives would "light the fire underneath" the Legislature to take action on the issue, noting that "young girls need written consent from their parents for a Tylenol at school, yet they can consent to a surgical abortion."

"The vast majority of Nevadans understand that all medical decisions concerning a child should be made by that child’s parents," she said in an email. "It is interesting that either of these initiatives are generating any controversy. Parents should have access to their children’s medical records and should make and consent to all decision regarding the physical and mental healthcare of their children."

The parental notification initiative filed Tuesday would address a 1985 state law that required parental notification, but was never enforced after being enjoined by a federal court amid issues with its judicial bypass procedure.

The measure would explicitly prohibit a physician from performing an abortion on anyone younger than 18 who is unmarried and unemancipated without first notifying the individual’s custodial parent or guardian at least 48 hours before the procedure. The initiative would require the physician or an agent to notify custodial parents either directly, or through certified mail.

It would also create a misdemeanor penalty for anyone who “knowingly” performs an abortion on a minor without notifying a parent or guardian.

Additionally, the initative would create a legal procedure for a minor to petition a district court to avoid notifying a custodial parent or guardian, with various confidentiality provisions including the ability to use a fictitious name and to keep proceedings confidential. It also sets a timeline for hearings and decisions, including a maximum window of three judicial days after a petition is filed to hold a hearing, with an order required within the next day.

The other measure filed by the group does not explicitly mention abortion, but language giving parents the right to access and review all of their child’s medical records, as well as make and consent to their health care decisions, could indirectly affect abortion policies for minors.

In 1990, Nevada voters approved a ballot measure reaffirming the allowance of abortion up to 24 weeks. More than 60 percent of voters supported the measure. Approval of the ballot question also prevented the Legislature from changing the law, with only a “direct vote by the people” allowed to amend the state’s abortion law. 

According to a recent poll of roughly 800 registered Nevada voters, 65 percent described themselves as pro-choice. The poll was conducted by OH Predictive Insights

To qualify, each initiative needs to collect at least 140,777 valid signatures from registered Nevada voters, including at least 35,195 within each of the state’s four congressional districts, to qualify for the next step. If they meet that threshold by the deadline of Nov. 23, they would move to the 2023 Legislature and possibly to the 2024 ballot if no action is taken by lawmakers.

Updated on Feb. 24, 2022 at 1:20 p.m. to include a quote from Nevada Right to Life Executive Director Melissa Clement.

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