New PAC sues to stop effort to add abortion protections to Nevada’s constitution
A newly formed PAC is seeking to stop a potential ballot question from qualifying for next year’s general election aimed at creating a state constitutional right to an abortion in Nevada.
In a lawsuit filed Thursday in Carson City’s First Judicial District Court, the Coalition for Parents and Children political action committee argues the ballot initiative is illegal because it is too broad for a single question, does not reflect the entire implications of the question and would cost taxpayer funds. The PAC filed its registration paperwork with the secretary of state’s office on Thursday.
The Coalition for Parents and Children PAC lists one officer — Donna Washington — who is also named as the plaintiff in the lawsuit. Washington, the wife of pastor and former state Sen. Maurice Washington (R-Reno), referred questions to her attorney, Jason Guinasso, who registered the PAC and filed the lawsuit.
In an interview, Guinasso said Washington and others reached out to him last week expressing their opposition to the petition. Guinasso helped them start the PAC, which he said is standard practice so that the plaintiff in a case can represent a broader group of people.
“It seems to us that this initiative is a solution searching for a problem, and that the voters have already settled the issue of abortion rights in Nevada,” Guinasso said.
Abortion is already legal until 24 weeks into a pregnancy in Nevada thanks to a 1990 referendum, but other states have taken action to enshrine abortion rights in their constitutions after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year. More than 60 percent of Nevadans support adding abortion rights to the constitution, according to a Nevada Independent poll from April.
The Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom PAC, which was also founded this year and is affiliated with Planned Parenthood’s advocacy arm, is spearheading the ballot initiative, which would need more than 100,000 signatures before June to be placed on the November 2024 ballot. If a majority of voters support the ballot measure, it would appear on the ballot again in 2026 for final approval.
The ballot question would establish a “fundamental right to reproductive health,” which is described as “the right to make and effectuate decisions about all matters relating to pregnancy, including, without limitation, prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, birth control, vasectomy, tubal ligation, abortion, abortion care, management of a miscarriage and infertility care.”
Lindsey Harmon, executive director for Planned Parenthood Votes Nevada, previously told The Nevada Independent that the proposed constitutional amendment would be “more expansive” than the state’s current statutory language on abortion.
The initiative would also protect any individual or health care provider from prosecution relating to the administration of an abortion.
But the lawsuit filed Thursday challenges several aspects of the ballot question, including arguing that it violates the state constitution’s single-subject rule by including such a wide swath of medical procedures from vasectomies to infertility care. It contends that the ballot question “embraces a litany of subjects that clearly amount to logrolling.”
“Simply put, this Petition contains overlapping provisions that are not functionally related or germane to any singular purpose,” the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit also argues that the petition’s 200-word description of effect — a brief description of the ballot question and its effects if passed included on signature-gathering sheets — does not accurately describe the effect of the question
“This description of effect fails to delineate the fact that the Petition will prevent the State from investigating and/or taking action against any miscarriage or stillborn birth,” the lawsuit reads.
And, the lawsuit also argues the petition violates the Nevada Constitution by implicitly requiring a funding source for the enforcement of the question’s provisions — claiming it would “require tax dollars to fund a board to review whether abortions or reproductive services were performed pursuant to standard of care.”
Harmon, the president of the group leading the ballot effort, said in a statement that the lawsuit “is a craven attempt to intervene in the democratic process.”
State lawmakers are already moving toward placing a similar constitutional ballot question on the 2026 ballot regarding abortion rights. The Legislature passed a bill this year to do so, and the same bill must pass legislators again in 2025 before it can reach voters.
Editor’s Note: Jason Guinasso is a contributing writer to The Nevada Independent’s opinion page.