Albuquerque, N.M., voters on Tuesday defeated a measure to ban abortion at 20 weeks, issuing a major blow to antiabortion activists who had hoped to use the city to test a new strategy to restrict the procedure at the municipal level.
As Salon has previously reported, the effort to get the measure on the ballot was led by Bud and Tara Shaver, two self-described Christian missionaries and extreme antiabortion activists who moved from Kansas to New Mexico with the sole intent of shuttering the Southwestern Women's Options clinic, one of two late-term abortion providers in the area.
“Three years ago God called us to come [to Albuquerque] to work and focus on the late-term abortion clinic here,” she explained to Salon in a recent interview. “We’ve been here for three years, laying the groundwork, shedding light on the fact that New Mexico has no abortion restrictions whatsoever, no parental notification laws for minors and is one of 15 states in the country that use taxpayer money to fund abortion."
Shaver also said she had hoped the initiative would inspire antiabortion activists to push similar municipal bans in states where other restrictions may not pass state legislatures, an idea that was echoed by Troy Newman, president of the militant antiabortion group Operation Rescue.
“[Targeting cities] is a new strategy. There is more than one way to close an abortion clinic,” Newman recently told Reuters. “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.”
The measure failed despite the involvement of out-of-state groups flooding the city with money and people to drum up support for the ban, which reproductive rights advocates and pro-choice lawmakers are celebrating as an indication that the municipal strategy being pushed by antiabortion activists may be a losing one.
“This was a clear counterpunch to the Republicans and right-wingers who came from out of state to push their agenda on us,” Sam Bregman, chairman of the New Mexico Democratic Party, which campaigned hard against the ban, told the New York Times.
“The voters of Albuquerque showed that they care about women’s health and respect the private medical decisions they make," Physicians for Reproductive Health Board Chair Nancy Stanwood, MD, MPH, said in a statement.
"They saw through this deceptive initiative and defeated a measure that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks, with only the narrowest of exceptions, legislation that would have stripped women of the ability to make the best decision for themselves and their families. ... With the defeat of this ballot measure, the voters of Albuquerque affirm that women deserve the best care and deserve privacy and respect.”