Politics & Policy

Albuquerque Votes on Late-Term Abortion Ban

A city in New Mexico would be first in the nation with such a prohibition.

Albuquerque is pulling a Texas. A coalition of pro-life activists has managed the improbable: They’ve gotten a ballot measure set for a vote on Tuesday that would ban abortions in the city after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Their efforts have drawn national attention — as well as national money — and, if successful, would break ground for the pro-life movement by making Albuquerque the first city in the nation with such a ban. It’s not just about making history, though: According to Politico, the city has two of the few clinics in the country that perform late-term abortions, and the measure, if successful, would force them to stop performing the procedures or move elsewhere.

The Susan B. Anthony List, a national pro-life organization, has spent thousands on the effort. It’s sent a campaign manager and field director to the city, and it’s also run TV ads pushing for the measure (including one 30-second spot featuring a former abortionist). Executive director Emily Buchanan tells me her organization hopes the Albuquerque effort will inspire nationwide change.

“Pro-lifers in Albuquerque are putting their foot down and saying not here, not in Albuquerque, we don’t want late-term abortion in our city,” she tells National Review Online. “And so we hope it inspires a national movement.”

Town Hall reports that President Obama’s Organizing for Action has campaigned against the measure, and Planned Parenthood and the ACLU are also working against the ban. Despite concerted opposition from abortion advocates, Buchanan says she’s confident pro-lifers will get a win Tuesday.

Part of the reason for that confidence? Activists say they collected 27,000 signatures in just two and a half weeks — and, according to the Albuquerque Journal, they needed only 12,091 to get the measure on the ballot. Sarah Wilson, who helped start the campaign and is vice president of the Catholic Coalition of New Mexico, tells NRO that her group was floored by the outpouring of support.

“It’s no credit to us,” she says of the signature-gathering success. “We were not organized. It just happened. It was amazing. Catholics were pretty convinced it must have been the Holy Spirit.”

“It was a mad rush, but everything happened so perfectly,” she adds.

Catholic and Evangelical congregations have been instrumental through the process. Ninety-six percent of the signatures were gathered after Masses and church services, she says, and many pastors and priests have been very supportive.

Elisa Martinez of Protect Albuquerque Women and Children tells NRO that a core group of about 75 to 100 volunteers has been working phone banks, canvassing, and organizing get-out-the-vote efforts. Part of the idea for the effort, she says, came from a citywide minimum-wage referendum last year; when pro-lifers saw the move’s success, they decided to use the same tool to limit abortions. And, she adds, Texas’s 20-week abortion ban also inspired them.

An abortion clinic’s consent form also has come into play. The website of Martinez’s group links to a PDF of the form that one of the Albuquerque abortion clinics requires women to sign; the form clearly states that having an abortion after 18 weeks is more dangerous than carrying the pregnancy to term.

“It’s a very troubling, very barbaric, very unnecessary procedure that the public needs to continue to have a discourse about and bring to light,” Martinez says.

And Wilson says she hopes the ban, if successful, will put pressure on state legislators to pass a law like Texas’s. Pro-life bills typically die in committee, she notes. But a citywide ban might make lawmakers realize that there’s appetite for change.

— Betsy Woodruff is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.


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