On Tuesday, a city ballot measure that would have outlawed abortion after 20 weeks—without exception for rape, incest or the health of the mother—was defeated by a vote of 55 percent to 45 percent. About 25 percent of the city’s registered voters turned out for the special election—more than participated in the recent mayoral election.
This was a significant victory for supporters of choice, not only because Albuquerque is one of the few cities in the U.S. still providing later term abortions but also because it’s the first to attempt an abortion ban through a city election.
If passed, this measure would have set a dangerous precedent for using municipal governments as a tactic to get around failed attempts at abortion bans on the state and federal levels.
Said Feminist Majority Foundation president and Ms. publisher Eleanor Smeal,
This should serve as a wake up call to conservative politicians waging their war on women and women’s reproductive rights that the public—especially women and young people—are opposed to more restrictions to cut off access to safe abortion.
Anti-abortion extremists from all over the country came to protest outside voting centers and around the city in the weeks before the election. Among those extremist groups promoting the measure was Operation Rescue, which has targeted Albuquerque because of its Southwestern Women’s Options clinic. Affiliated with Operation Rescue is Survivors of The Abortion Holocaust, which in the weeks before the election launched a tasteless protest outside the New Mexico Holocaust and Intolerance Museum, claiming that aborted fetuses are “victims” of the “American Holocaust.”
But city voters stood strong against increasing pressure from these organizations, despite attempts to disenfranchise pro-choice voters by removing polling locations from the two universities in the city. Organizations such as the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF), ACLU and Planned Parenthood worked hard to help organize student activists, volunteers and other local citizens to oppose the legislation. The FMF sent a team of campus organizers to mobilize student voters, including joining with Young Women United and ProgressNow New Mexico to sponsor shuttles from local campuses to the polls. Dolores Huerta, FMF board member and cofounder of United Farm Workers, also campaigned with student leaders. Albuquerque students came out in droves on election day, many of them waiting in long lines for buses going to the polls.
Albuquerque families sent a powerful message today—they do not want the government interfering in their private medical decisions … Dangerous, unconstitutional laws like the one we rejected today have no place in Albuquerque, no place in New Mexico, no place anywhere in our nation.
Photo courtesy of Brooke Hofhenke of the Feminist Majority Foundation.