Albuquerque voters to decide on nation's first municipal abortion ban

The outcome of Tuesday's vote may signal the start of a new strategy to restrict access at the city level

By Katie McDonough

Published November 19, 2013 2:15PM (EST)

  (Reuters/Stephen Lam)
(Reuters/Stephen Lam)

Voters in Albuquerque, N.M., on Tuesday will vote on an initiative that would ban abortion at 20 weeks with only narrowly defined exceptions for the health and life of the woman. It is the first abortion restriction introduced at the municipal level, a strategy antiabortion activists may consider replicating elsewhere if their efforts in Albuquerque are successful.

The effort to ban abortion at 20 weeks in Albuquerque is being led by Bud and Tara Shaver, two antiabortion activists who moved from Kansas to New Mexico with the goal of trying to shutter the Southwestern Women's Options clinic, one of the last few remaining late-term abortion providers in the country.

Julianna Koob, legislative advocate for Planned Parenthood of New Mexico, told Reuters that the fate of access in her city will have ramifications for women in the region and around the country. "Because access has been so severely impacted in other cities, women do depend on the clinics here to pursue these safe medical procedures when they are facing some really heartbreaking decisions," she said.

Courts have blocked identical 20-week abortion bans in Arizona, Georgia and Idaho, and the city's attorney general, Gary King, has said the proposed measure is "unconstitutional and unenforceable."

As Salon has previously reported, the outcome of this vote may lead to copycat measures in cities elsewhere in the country:

While state restrictions continue to multiply across the country, the tactic of criminalizing abortion at the city level is a relatively new development among antiabortion activists. But as groups like Operation Rescue and Americans United for Life run out of deep red states with eager, Republican-controlled legislatures to target, it may become increasingly relevant — and common.


While the Shavers may be the local face of the Albuquerque campaign, Operation Rescue is heavily invested in the outcome. Much like its activism against Tiller’s clinic in Kansas, the group wants to see Southwestern Women’s Options clinic — and all abortion clinics — shuttered, making abortion both inaccessible and illegal for women in Albuquerque and everywhere else. The group’s president, Troy Newman, made as much clear in a recent interview with Reuters.

“It is a new strategy. There is more than one way to close an abortion clinic,” he said.

“If you can’t get anything done in a state legislature … you look at what is going on in a city. They say all politics is local. This is a great example of that.”

Albuquerque may be the first test, but the strategy is eliciting interest from antiabortion activists in other traditionally blue states. “I am getting calls from other people in other states about our strategy, which is encouraging,” Shaver said.

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

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

Abortion Abortion Rights Albuquerque Anti-choice Activism Antiabortion Activism Operation Rescue