November 20th, 2013 | 2 Comments
Anti-abortion activists who spearheaded a high turnout special election that would have banned abortions performed after 20 weeks except in extreme circumstances have a message following the vote: they aren’t going anywhere.
Albuquerque is the home of Southwest Women’s Options, one of the few clinics in the country that performs abortions on women later than 20 weeks into their pregnancy. It is run by those who worked under Dr. George Tiller in Wichita where he performed similar procedures.
As long as the clinic has a home in Albuquerque, it will always be the center of protests, albeit usually with a handful of anti-abortion activists.
Anti-abortion organizers claimed that at 20 weeks a fetus could feel pain and so abortions should be outlawed at that point. Scientific studies have shown that fetuses don’t develop the ability to feel pain until later in the pregnancy, but anti-abortion activists did not agree with those studies.
Opponents of the ban instead argued this was a women’s health issue that the government had no role in. They also were buoyed by an opinion by Attorney General Gary King that said the ban would be unenforceable because it conflicted with Roe v. Wade.
While Albuquerque voters emphatically rejected the proposed ban, it was anything but easy. The campaign saw a style of campaign not usually seen at the municipal level in the city — national groups from each side poured money into the effort with TV ads, GOTV operations and other sophisticated campaign tactics usually reserved for federal or statewide races in the state.
Respect ABQ Women was the main group that opposed the ban and they hailed the hard work that went into defeating the ban..
“This incredible victory would never have been possible without the thousands of volunteers and supporters who worked tirelessly with the Respect ABQ Women campaign to inform voters about this deceptive and misleading ballot measure,” said Julianna Koob with the Respect ABQ Women campaign. “Not only have out-of-state, out-of-touch groups failed to impose their political agenda on Albuquerque families they created an army of New Mexicans passionate about protecting private medical decisions between a woman and her doctor.”
And there is not any assurance that such a ballot initiative won’t happen again.
After last night's defeat, late abortion ban supporters look forward. "I think we can certainly do it again." – Sarah Wilson #abq2013
— Shaun Griswold (@shaun505) November 20, 2013
Wilson's group, Albuquerque Deserves Better, vows to return. "Everybody out on the street who worked so hard will be back." #abq2013
— Shaun Griswold (@shaun505) November 20, 2013
If it were a mail-in ballot (as would have happened if there were not a runoff election in city council District 7), would the results have been different? This is something Albuquerque could see in the future.
However, ballot initiatives have been more favorable to progressives and Democrats in an increasingly progressive city. In March, voters approved a change in campaign law that required a candidate to reach 50 percent to avoid a runoff instead of the previous 40 percent. This ended up netting Democrats a seat as former State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones narrowly missed reaching 50 percent in October — only to fall on Tuesday to Diane Gibson, a Democrat.
Another high profile ballot initiative in 2012 raised the minimum wage in the city to $8.50 per hour. This was on the 2012 general election ballot and passed with twice as many votes for it than against it.
The Albuquerque Journal raised the thought of increased attention on the issue in the legislature.
Shaver, who pushed for passage of the ordinance, said she hopes the city campaign catches the attention of state lawmakers.
“Ultimately, either way, we’re going to continue moving forward and doing what we do – and that is creating awareness, bringing education to the whole community and continue rallying the troops,” Shaver said.
Bloomberg also quoted an anti-abortion activist as saying it isn’t over yet.
The strategy to offer a municipal ballot measure in Albuquerque, a city of about 555,000, was embraced because the New Mexico legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, hasn’t acted on bills to restrict abortions, said Cheryl Sullenger, senior policy adviser at Operation Rescue, a Wichita, Kansas-based anti-abortion group.
“Year after year, pro-life legislation gets introduced and it dies in committee,” she said. “Pro-life supporters may have suffered a political loss, but we are far from defeated. We’ll be back.”
Anything to do with abortion generally is quickly and quietly tabled in a House committee (although sometimes they get national attention first).
Even if an abortion ban proposal doesn’t happen in Albuquerque again, other cities could see similar efforts. Albuquerque was seen as a test pilot of sorts, to see if a generally progressive and Hispanic-heavy city would pass such a ban. While that did not happen here, it doesn’t mean they won’t try it in other municipalities — although it is rare that municipalities have clinics that perform abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Written by Matthew Reichbach
Matthew Reichbach has blogged about New Mexico politics since 2006. Matthew was a co-founder of New Mexico FBIHOP with his brother and part of the original hirings at the groundbreaking website the New Mexico Independent. Matthew has covered events such as the Democratic National Convention and Netroots Nation. In addition to politics, Matthew is an avid sports fan, especially of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and TV fan.
Filed under: Albuquerque Elections, Featured, Health · Tags: Albuquerque 2013, Cheryl Sullinger, Julianna Koob, late-term abortion, Operation Rescue, Respect ABQ Women, Shaun Griswold, Southwest Women's Options, Tara Shaver
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