A Nevada judge has approved a petition by abortion access advocates as eligible for signature gathering in their long-standing attempt to get abortion rights on the 2024 ballot.
Carson City District Judge James T. Russell made the ruling Tuesday, about two months after he struck down a similar yet broader version that, if passed, would have enshrined additional reproductive rights into the state’s constitution.
If the Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom political action committee gets enough signatures, a question would appear on the November ballot that would enshrine abortion access for up to 24 weeks, or as needed to protect the health of the pregnant patient, into the Nevada Constitution. Then, voters would need to approve it again on the 2026 ballot to amend the constitution.
Abortion rights up to 24 weeks are already codified into Nevada law through a 1990 referendum, where two-thirds of voters were in favor. That could be changed with another referendum.
The standards are higher for amending the constitution, which requires either approval from two legislative sessions and an election, or two consecutive elections with a simple majority of votes.
The petition that was cleared for signatures is one of two efforts from the Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom committee to get the right to abortion on the 2024 ballot.
Russell rejected an earlier petition in a November ruling, saying the proposed ballot initiative was too broad, contained a “misleading description of effect” and had an unfunded mandate.
The petition would have included protections for “matters relating to their pregnancies” including prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, birth control, vasectomies, tubal ligations, abortion and abortion care, as well as care for miscarriages and infertility. Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom appealed that rejection to the Nevada Supreme Court and are waiting for a new ruling.
The petition approved for signatures Tuesday had narrower language — “establishing a fundamental, individual right to abortion,” which applies to “decisions about matters relating to abortion” without government interference.
In a statement following the ruling, Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom spokesperson Lindsey Harmon celebrated the ruling but said she remained confident that the committee’s initial petition would be recognized as eligible by the Nevada Supreme Court.
“Abortion rights are not the only form of reproductive freedom under attack across the country,” Harmon said. “Protecting miscarriage management, birth control, prenatal and postpartum care, and other vital reproductive health care services are inextricably linked pieces of a singular right to reproductive freedom.”
Abortion rights have become a mobilizing issue for Democrats since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 court decision establishing a nationwide right to abortion.
Constitutional amendments protecting abortion access are already set to appear on the 2024 ballot in New York and Maryland and could also show up in a host of states, including Missouri and Arizona.
Lawmakers in Nevada’s Democratic-controlled Legislature are also attempting to get reproductive rights including abortion access in front of voters on the 2026 ballot. The initiative, which would enshrine those rights in the state constitution, passed the state Senate and Assembly in May 2023 and now must be approved with a simple majority again in 2025 before being eligible for the 2026 ballot.