Albuquerque becomes latest abortion battleground

Reproductive rights opponents, aided by out-of-state groups, have descended on Albuquerque

By Katie McDonough
September 5, 2013 5:38PM (UTC)
main article image
Anti-abortion activists (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Reproductive rights opponents in New Mexico have failed to advance a series of abortion restrictions in the Democratic-controlled Legislature, but, with considerable help from out-of-state anti-choice groups, have collected enough signatures to hold a referendum to try and make Albuquerque the first city in the country to ban abortions at 20 weeks.

As the New York Times notes, the push for the referendum is being led by two anti-choice activists who moved to New Mexico from Kansas for the specific purpose of advocating against abortion rights in the state:


“We felt called to come and serve in Albuquerque,” said Tara Shaver, 29. She and her husband, Bud, moved here largely to find a way to shut down Southwestern Women’s Options, she said.

Ms. Shaver is the spokeswoman for a coalition of Roman Catholic, evangelical and other groups pushing the ballot initiative. City officials say the proposed 20-week ban is expected to be put to voters this fall.

The Shavers’ newcomer status and close ties to Operation Rescue, which is known for harassment of clinics, have become rallying points for abortion rights defenders here.

“The fact that they call themselves missionaries is really offensive,” said Joan Lamunyon Sanford, director of the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and a leader of a coalition fighting the 20-week proposal. “We don’t need outsiders bringing in this kind of disruption.”

The Shavers trained in Kansas under the anti-abortion group, Operation Rescue. Another link that drew the Shavers from Kansas to New Mexico? George Tiller.

After Tiller was murdered by an anti-choice activist in 2009, two doctors from his practice moved to Albuquerque to work at another clinic, Southwestern Women’s Options. The reproductive health clinic has since become a target for reproductive rights opponents across the country.

But their presence in the city is being criticized by many locals, including former lieutenant governor Diane Denish, who criticized how “out-of-state interests have come to try to impress their beliefs on New Mexicans.”




Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

MORE FROM Katie McDonoughFOLLOW kmcdonovgh

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Abortion Abortion Rights Abq Albuquerque New Mexico Reproductive Rights Women's Rights