The abortion ban defeated Tuesday in Albuquerque has passed in 13 states

November 20, 2013

Protestors outside the Southwester Women’s Surgery Center in Dallas, Texas. A sister location in Albuquerque would have been forced to stop providing abortions at or after 20 weeks if voters had approved the new ordinance. (Larry W. Smith/EPA)

Pro-choice activists scored a victory on Tuesday, but it’s one in a war they’ve been losing in recent years.

Voters in Albuquerque, N.M., defeated by a wide margin what could have been the nation’s first municipal abortion ban. The measure would have prohibited abortions past 20 weeks, a policy that’s been adopted in 13 states since 2010. In Albuquerque, it was defeated by a nearly ten-point margin with opposition just over 55 percent.

“Today Albuquerque voters respected women — and sent a clear message here and across the country that voters reject callous attempts to take away complex, personal decisions from women, their families, and their faith,” Adriann Barboa, a member of Respect ABQ Women — a group active in the fight against the measure — said in a statement Tuesday night.

While pro-choice activists celebrated the vote, it’s a bit of good news amid a stream of bad for abortion-rights proponents. This year alone, seven states have passed a 20-week ban. North Carolina’s passed most recently, at the end of June. Weeks prior, a ban was passed in Texas after being famously filibustered by state senator and now-gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis.

Before Texas were Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, North Dakota and Arkansas. Arizona and Georgia passed 20-week bans in 2012; Idaho, Indiana and Alabama passed them in 2011. Nebraska was the first, with a measure approved in 2010. In some of the states, the law is temporarily on hold as courts consider lawsuits over it.

Even the federal government has explored the ban, with the House passing it in June and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introducing a Senate version earlier this month.

But, despite their success, pro-life activists see cities as the next frontier in the fight.

“Sometime in the state houses we’re not getting what we want,” said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, a pro-life group that assisted local efforts in Albuquerque. “But on a more local level, people are more concerned about their problems in a city than they are in the state legislature … We’ve always been innovative in trying new strategies.”

Twenty-week bans are controversial, but enjoy strong support among some demographics. In a June National Journal poll, support for such a ban was at or above 50 percent for whites, women, those aged 18 to 29, independents and Republicans. Opposition was above 50 percent among only two groups: African Americans and Democrats.

But pro-choice activists cite their own polls that show wide support in cases where the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest, giving birth could seriously harm the mother, or the fetus is not viable or may have serious disabilities.

The final tally in Albuquerque was 55 percent opposed to 45 percent in favor of the policy, with nearly 87,000 votes cast.


The 13 states that have passed a 20-week abortion ban. (Credit: Niraj Chokshi)
Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.
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Niraj Chokshi | November 19, 2013