Vote Lands Albuquerque at Center of Abortion Battle

National groups collide in New Mexico's largest city as residents weigh the first municipal ban of late-term abortions in the U.S.

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Luis Sanchez Saturno / The Santa Fe New Mexican / AP

People at a pro-life rally in Santa Fe, N.M., release 400 balloons on Jan. 18, 2012, to represent the estimated 400 abortions that occur in New Mexico every month

Correction appended, Nov. 18.

Students leaving afternoon classes at the University of New Mexico last Thursday were greeted with a raucous spectacle: abortion protesters had flooded the campus, passing out flyers and occasionally yelling slurs from across the quad. Near the school entrance, a gaggle of teens calling themselves the Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust brandished a huge image of a dismembered, fully developed fetus. Ten feet away, pro-choice advocates handed out free pizza and abortion testimonials to interested classmates.

Outside the library, notorious pro-life protester Rives Grogan, who was banned from Washington, D.C., last year after lodging himself in a tree during President Obama’s Inauguration, was taken into custody for screaming at students and faculty.

This circus has become familiar in Albuquerque, where city residents will vote Tuesday on the nation’s first-ever municipal referendum to ban abortions after 20 weeks. The vote — which would effectively end late-term abortions in New Mexico — has turned this low-key, progressive city of a half million people into the latest flash point in the abortion culture wars. It opens a new pro-life strategy to push abortion restrictions at the local as well as state and federal levels.

(PHOTOS: 40 Years After Roe: Inside North Dakota’s Only Abortion Clinic)

“I would be surprised if what’s happening in Albuquerque didn’t start to replicate itself in other places,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a national pro-life organization that has been involved in the ballot initiative and has pushed for a similar ban at the federal level.

Titled the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Ordinance, the initiative would prevent women in the city from obtaining an abortion after five months of pregnancy, with a narrow exception for cases when a woman’s life is in immediate danger.

Based on the disputed claim that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks, late-term-abortion bans target the small number of abortions performed after that point — 1.5% of U.S. abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-health think tank. Thirteen states have passed late-term-abortion bans, although judges have struck down those laws in Idaho and New Mexico’s neighbor Arizona. A federal 20-week abortion ban passed the House of Representatives in June, and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, introduced a 20-week ban bill in the Senate earlier this month.

Albuquerque, called by antiabortion activists “the late-term-abortion capital of the country,” is a natural testing ground for the nation’s first municipal abortion restrictions. Following the murder of late-term-abortion doctor George Tiller in 2009, two of the physicians from his clinic in Wichita, Kans., moved to Albuquerque to practice at Southwestern Women’s Options, making it one of only a few clinics the country that offer abortions after the sixth month of pregnancy, and one of just two clinics in New Mexico that perform the procedure after 20 weeks.

In 2010, pro-life activists Tara and Bud Shaver, who had trained with the Wichita-based antiabortion group Operation Rescue, moved to Albuquerque with the express goal of shutting down Southwestern Women’s Options. Since then, the couple has engaged in what Tara Shaver calls “prayerful witness” at the clinic, launching investigations into the clinic’s doctors and routinely circling the practice in a “Truth Truck” emblazoned with images of a dismembered fetus.

While these efforts failed to close down the clinic, the Shavers’ aggressive activism galvanized the local pro-life community and drew attention to the lack of a gestational limit on abortion in New Mexico. “Whenever we tell people abortion is legal for all nine months, they argue that no one ever does it that late in a pregnancy,'” Tara Shaver said. “They do, and they are coming to Albuquerque to do it.”

(MORE: Doctors Urge More Hospitals to Perform Abortions)

After attempts to pass state abortion restrictions repeatedly languished in New Mexico’s Democratic-controlled legislature, pro-life groups teamed up with the Shavers this past summer to petition for a citywide late-term-abortion ban in Albuquerque, where the city charter allows citizens to file ballot initiatives as long as 12,091 signatures are gathered. What began as a local effort has morphed into a million-dollar campaign, with national groups on both sides of the abortion issue pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into advertisements and get-out-the-vote initiatives.

At least six antiabortion groups have campaigned to support the ban, including the Susan B. Anthony List, which spent $176,000 on the Albuquerque campaign in the six weeks leading up to the vote. To thwart these efforts, a coalition of liberal groups, including Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, have banded together under the banner Respect ABQ Women.

With an assist from Organizing for Action, the grassroots fundraising machine spun out of Obama’s presidential campaign, Respect ABQ Women has raised $680,000 to defeat the ordinance, in the hopes of deterring other antiabortion groups from pursuing a similar strategy in other parts of the country.

“Albuquerque voters are carrying a lot of responsibility,” said Micaela Cadena, policy director for Young Women United, a reproductive-justice group working with Respect ABQ Women. “Not only are we voting for our own lives and families, we’re voting for residents from across the state who come to the city for care. But also across the country as well, it’s important that we show the opposition here and now.”

A record number of voters have already turned out for the Albuquerque referendum, with more than 35,000 people casting ballots as of Friday. Both sides expect that the final tally will be close.

“This is a new strategy — no one has ever tried this at a municipal level,” said Patrick Davis, director of ProgressNow New Mexico. “The bottom line is we don’t know how this is going to go.”

While the fate of Albuquerque’s referendum remains uncertain, the strategy is already drawing interest from pro-life groups in other cities. Last week, pro-life activists in New Mexico’s Valencia County, south of Albuquerque, asked county commissioners to consider adopting a similar ban on late-term abortions. And regardless of the outcome on Tuesday, Davis believes that antiabortion activists will use the city’s ordinance as a template for similar municipal abortion restrictions. “If it fails, other places will still have a model for how this works,” he said. “No matter what happens, they will have a better strategy going out of this.”

MORE: California Counters National Abortion Trend

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that a pro-choice group Respect ABQ Women had raised more than $68,000. The correct figure is $680,000, according to financial disclosures filed with the City of Albuquerque as of Nov. 8.

641 comments
AlanGorton
AlanGorton

Ha, ha, what a scam. They just want the babies to develop longer than 20 weeks so they’ll get more money for the parts when they finally talk the dumb girl into killing her own son or daughter.
Ignorance is a choice. If you choose to not be ignorant, GOOGLE Baby Parts For Sale. Then you'll see the real reason they want to extend abortion of human babies.

jgfsmf
jgfsmf

Well, the vote is tonight.  I really hope it passes.

RyanDiaz
RyanDiaz

I'm unsure on this issue as a whole. Can anyone really prove or disprove that life begins at conception? But THIS is so fu--ing simple. If the baby is already developed to a point that if it was born at that second it could survive, there's no question that its a living person! "Big baby" or late term abortion is disgusting, but not as disgusting as those horrible radicals asking doctors to change their stance on the issue to offer more late term abortions.

jennyw
jennyw

I had an abortion at 30 weeks.  Over 35, I fell into the category of "advanced maternal age".  Because of this, I was offered a full range of prenatal testing.  I had genetic testing done on myself for carrier status for 85 genetic conditions, and came up clear on all 85  I had the integrated screen for chromosomal abnormalities, MaterniT21, amniocentesis, and chromosomal microarray.  All clear (and very expensive).  My 20-week anatomical ultrasound was so perfect, my doctor joked they should put it in a medical textbook.  All was well.  At 30 weeks, I measured a bit big, and my doctor ordered a test and an ultrasound, "just to check".  What he found was a fetus with significant deformities, fluid in the brain, and organ damage.  They were not sure whether the baby would need permanent breathing assistance,  whether she would have brain damage or developmental delays, whether she would live at all. Several opinions told us that either way, it didn't look good.  Worse yet, there was no diagnosis.  The suspicion was a skeletal dysplasia, of which there are hundreds of types, some completely new or unique,  many not apparent until the third trimester.  A random genetic mutation during conception.

I also had complications in my pregnancy--high blood pressure, elevated heart rate, and would have required a C-section to deliver my damaged or dead baby, since the fluid in the brain had caused her head to grow to the size of a full-term infant at only 30 weeks.

The pro-life faction active here would have mandated that I carry to term, have the c-section, and give birth to a child who would likely have died or lived in a severely damaged state.  Would they have paid the hospital bills for a lifetime of care, for my surgery, for the expenses of my baby's funeral? Would they have been there to comfort my daughter when she was in pain?

I'm a member of a support group for women who had third trimester abortions.  One had a baby without a brain, another had a baby who never once moved.  Not one just decided one day that she didn't feel like giving birth anymore.

Despite my own experience, I don't believe abortions should be available only to people in my situation.  Disasters come in many flavors, and who are we to judge what others can't handle?  Pregnancy is straightforward for most women, but for many it is not, and nobody should be forced by law to endure it.

There are women out there who would make different choices than I made, and I would support them.

MarisaDemarco
MarisaDemarco

Paragraph 3 is incorrect: "The vote — which would effectively end late-term abortions in New Mexico ... " This is municipal election and the ordinance would end late-term abortions in the city of Albuquerque. 

KeithZiegler
KeithZiegler

TOO bad the initiative is irrelevant and will never be enforced...it's exceptions are too limited and violate Supreme Court ruling..so no Albuquerque...you don't get to make your own rules

hp.proli
hp.proli

"The people of Samaria must bear the consequences of their guilt because they rebelled against their God. They will be killed by an invading army, their little ones dashed to death against the ground, their pregnant women ripped open by swords."   (Hosea 13:16 NLT)


So, when did the God thingy start caring about the unborn?

hp.proli
hp.proli

Another thing I don't understand is why Christian pro-lifers would step over a line that their God thingy would not cross?  When you ask a Christian why God would allow a rape to even happen, the response is invariably that "God gave us free will and He will not interfere with it."  So, why are His followers doing just that?  Why is it that their God thingy knows how to mind His own business, but they don't?

Anna888
Anna888

All those abortion bans demonize woman and treat women as murderers or suspects that cannot be trusted to make their own decisions. No woman I know wants to have an abortion. If an abortion happens, it's because something went terribly wrong. Maybe there's a health issue, maybe a father refused to be involved in raising a child, maybe a woman doesn't have a good family support and doesn't want to condemn a child to a life of poverty. If women in the U.S. would have access to affordable healthcare and anti-conception, if preschools and education were affordable, I bet the abortion rate would go way down. It probably is very low in countries like Denmark, which are truly pro-life and give free healthcare and education to its citizens. It is very difficult to raise a child in the U.S. Families are supported much better in Eastern Europe where I grew up. 

pads132
pads132

These people are NOT pro-life, they are pro-fetus. Once the fetus is born and becomes a living person, a life, they simply don't care anymore about that life anymore. Anti-abortionists have NEVER been concerned about 'life' they only want to force their narrow-minded views on other. They thump the Bible and say they are doing 'God's' or 'Jesus's' will or some other made up nonsense yet not one of them can point to any passage in their Bible that says anything about abortion.

SimbaLover
SimbaLover

Should government control men's bodies?

 Should government control men's reproductive choices?

 Should government mandate that men's bodies be life support for the unborn?

 Should government mandate that men have unnecessary anal penetrating medical procedures?

 Should government limit men's health choices for treatments and procedures?

 Should government allow employers to discriminate against men's health?

 Should governments have control over what free citizens can and can not do with their bodies?

If you answered NO to ANY of these questions, then you agree that the government is discriminately violating women's rights.

MBAYER3009
MBAYER3009

How does a fetus feel "pain" when the central nervous system isnt developed until about the 30th week of pregnancy? Without nerves....we dont feel pain.

hp.proli
hp.proli

I really don't understand the position of the pro-lifer's.  Most of them are Christians, which means they don't believe in death.  They believe that the aborted fetus will go to Heaven.  So, what is the big deal, here?  If the fetus goes to heaven, and no one really ever dies, anyway, then what is the big deal?

Do these people not have faith in their God thingy?  Do they imagine that, if their God thingy wanted a particular fetus to be born that there is anything we mere humans could do to stop it?  Do they imagine that if a woman aborted a fetus that God had great plans for that He could not just as easily choose another fetus for those great accomplishments?  Do they really think that we could actually stand in the way of God's Will?  Do they have that little faith in their God thingy?  Do they not really believe  that the aborted fetuses will go to heaven?  Do they instead think they will go to Hell, because they were going to be born into sin, anyway?  Just what is going through their faith-filled heads?

ElizabethSchwartz
ElizabethSchwartz

Food for thought:  I wonder how many of these allegedly "pro-life" activists are for strict gun control or against the death penalty?


Also, I saw their spokesperson on the news who said that women who are raped should not be allowed to have abortions, because that's just "doubling the violence against them".


Seriously, why don't people just mind their own business?

gretamel
gretamel

geesh, a fetus can survive after 5 months.  Why not wait a few more weeks and just give birth - and give it up for adoption.  I am pro-choice, but REALLY, this is barbaric.  Do you know what they do to the baby in partial birth abortions?  pull the baby out by the feet, and Stick a scissors in the base of the brain and suck out the brains.  True, look it up 

Anna888
Anna888

@RyanDiaz it's actually nothing but simple. You obviously have very limited experience with complications in pregnancy. 

MaryMitch
MaryMitch

@jennyw Thank you for sharing your difficult story. It's never an trivial decision; that's why it shouldn't be legislated.

jgfsmf
jgfsmf

@KeithZiegler 

Why not.  The people are voting on it and they went about getting this on a ballot the right way.  I hope it passes.

rtbd66
rtbd66

@hp.proli Do you realize that 36% of pro-lifers have no religious affiliation?  Not sure why you keep bringing the "God thingy" into it other than you like to say "God thingy."  I think you need to move over to the "religion" section of Huffington Post and have a field day with the rest of the haters.

banddcosner
banddcosner

@Anna888 Legal restrictions on abortion do not affect its incidence. For example, the abortion rate is 29 in Africa, where abortion is illegal in many circumstances in most countries, and it is 28 in Europe, where abortion is generally permitted on broad grounds.

Source: Alan Guttmacher Institute report: Sharing Responsibility Women, Society and Abortion Worldwide.

hp.proli
hp.proli

@Anna888 

The main problem, here in the US, is that the conservatives don't know how to mind their own business.  They are not satisfied to have the right to their own opinion.  They want the right to make choices for others - while avoiding the responsibility for those choices.

rtbd66
rtbd66

@pads132 Old and tired argument - and completely baseless.

hp.proli
hp.proli

@pads132 

Oh, they could point to the passages that have to do with abortion, but it would not help their position.  Those verses would be the ones where their God thingy told His followers to slaughter all of their enemies, including the unborn.

"The people of Samaria must bear the consequences of their guilt because they rebelled against their God. They will be killed by an invading army, their little ones dashed to death against the ground, their pregnant women ripped open by swords."   (Hosea 13:16 NLT)

jgfsmf
jgfsmf

@SimbaLover 

You do realize that women can have abortions right now......and it's legal.  How is have an abortion at 26 weeks an okay thing to do to your body?  If a woman hasn't decided to have an abortion at 20 weeks, five long months, then why should she have one at 26 weeks........six and a half months.  That baby is able to live at that term.

banddcosner
banddcosner

@SimbaLover 

1) Overly simplistic question. In certain circumstances, yes. Government should tell men that they can not use their bodies to fly a plane into the side of a building.

2) Once another human being is involved, absolutely. A man should not force a woman to destroy an unborn member of our species and the government should not mandate that ability

3) Yes, if that "unborn" were incapable of survival on its own.

4) In certain circumstances, yes. Ever heard of a "Full Body Cavity Search"?

5) Depends on your definition of each term. If those treatments will result in the death of another, then yes, the Gov't should limit it.

6) They do now. Obeseity in specific.

7) Again, depends on what that choice will result in. See my comment above about the plane and the building.

neonatalnurse
neonatalnurse

@MBAYER3009 Please ask any neonatal medical provider if a baby of less than 30 weeks gestation can feel pain.  You are completely incorrect.  The central nervous system exists if a heart beats... neural impulses are present from a very very early stage of development.  Having taken care of several 23-30 week babies in a NICU, I can assure you they feel a great deal of pain.

banddcosner
banddcosner

@MBAYER3009 Ashlyn Blocker and Gabby Gingras can't feel pain either. Should we be allowed to kill them?

SimbaLover
SimbaLover

@MBAYER3009 They don't…just the pro-LIE groups use bad science to "prove" that they are right…all they have are lies and tools of manipulation. 

banddcosner
banddcosner

@hp.proli This is the biggest pile of manure I've read on this thread. We do not believe in killing innocents. We believe that every innocent deserves the chance to choose and the opportunity to serve God how they will. Abortion may allow the child to go to heaven, but it removes their ability to grow up and preach the Gospel to others who were not killed before they became accountable.

Anna888
Anna888

@hp.proli I think you hit a nail on the head - their belief in a very punitive god. The Christian god might not let an aborted fetus into heaven because the fetus wasn't baptized. I think most Christians are brought up with that idea of a severe, punishing god and they think it's completely normal to want to punish others as a result. 

banddcosner
banddcosner

@ElizabethSchwartz Why do you suggest that ANYONE who takes the life of another is punished? Why don't you mind YOUR own business?

hp.proli
hp.proli

@ElizabethSchwartz 


Well, they seem determined to keep that a secret.  They keep prattling about murder every time I ask.  I can't get them to focus on the issue at hand.  They're too busy trying to meddle in the affairs of others, as if their own lives were already in perfect shape.

jennyw
jennyw

@gretamel because that baby might be too damaged to be adoptable.  And your description is ridiculous.  In a late-term abortion, the fetus is given an injection, then delivered as a stillbirth.  I know, because I've had one.  Your description is "pro-life" propaganda.

hp.proli
hp.proli

@gretamel 


There are worse fates to befall a fetus than to be aborted - like being born to parents who don't want it and into a world that already has too many unwanted babies.

Anna888
Anna888

@gretamel your indignation is completely displaced. No woman I know would want to have an abortion so late - if they don't want pregnancy, they abort as soon as they can (look below to SimbalLover comment why it's sometimes in 2nd trimester). If a woman has to have an abortion late, it's because of health issues - hers or the fetus's. Don't demonize women - they want to live happily and take care of the kids which they already have. 

SimbaLover
SimbaLover

@gretamel Actually that method was outlawed….and as a result now the later term procedures that are medically necessary are much harder on the woman.

BTW most later abortions are women who wanted the baby but there is a problem - either with her or the fetus….the very late are not for kicks.

Anna888
Anna888

@banddcosner @Anna888 I wasn't talking about the legal restrictions on abortion. I was talking about affordable healthcare and education. 

dyfts
dyfts

@banddcosner @SimbaLover  Regarding 3(although your responses to all 7 are quite silly, this one is the most egregious): There are thousands of people who die every year in this country waiting for organs. They are incapable of surviving on their own (without the transplant). So why aren't we forcing people to donate their bodies to help save those lives? Where is our kidney donor draft? Minimally, why don't we force dead bodies to be organ donors and save all those lives?

AustinIsFull
AustinIsFull

Now THAT was the biggest pile of BS I have ever read. How DARE you try to make people believe what you do. "Serve"?  99% of the Christians I have ever met have only served themselves.  Just face it. Not everyone believes what you do, so stay out of peoples business.  I have no right telling you that you can bring some kid into this world. You could be a total dumbass. We certainly don't need anymore of those floating around.  

hp.proli
hp.proli

@banddcosner @hp.proli 

So, your position is based on the selfish notion that the fetus should be allowed to be born so it can spread your religious dogma?  That's disgusting.

And, I don't give a damn about your beliefs.  Shout them from orange crates or keep them to yourself.  I'm just as satisfied to laugh at you  as listen to you.  Abortion is still none of your damned business.

hp.proli
hp.proli

@banddcosner @ElizabethSchwartz 


We cannot allow the taking of other people's lives.  I am a person so I would be a potential victim.  And, I have rights in this society - that an unborn fetus has not earned, yet.

Anna888
Anna888

@rtbd66 @Anna888 @hp.proli I don't think I'm particularly full of hate. I'm very concerned about  my right to decide what happens to my own body, if I ever get pregnant again.  I'm a human being, not an enclosure for a fetus. I already have a life full of responsibilities and children to take care of. And I want my daughter to have a right to a timely, legal,  painless abortion if she ever needs it. 

I used to go to a catholic church - talk about hate! Every Sunday the sermon was about the hateful gays or abortionists and their demands and how good Christians had to fight them. I couldn't bring my children to a church that was teaching hate. I'm teaching my children to be kind to all and to think for themselves. 

hp.proli
hp.proli

@banddcosner @hp.proli 


Look, I fully understand that I don't deserve a seat at the table where abortion is being discussed - you don't.  I am a gay man with no children.  I will never have children.  And, I know how to mind my own business - you don't.

If you believe in a God thingy, I would point out that not even your God thingy would interfere with a woman's choice to end an unwanted pregnancy.  From where do you get the audacity to do so?

banddcosner
banddcosner

@hp.proli @banddcosner Which is why you should have no seat at this table. The fact that you claim that any reason to kill another member of our species will do and excuse yourself from the moral obligation to care stinks of a level of smugness of titanic proportions.

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