The Washington Post

Albuquerque’s considering the abortion ban languishing in the Senate

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

In a week and a day, voters in Albuquerque, N.M., may succeed where Congress is stalled: They could ban abortions at or after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Last week, a measure to ban the practice was introduced in the Senate after a similar bill passed the House in June. But even the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), doesn’t expect it to garner enough votes to pass. Its fate may be at best uncertain and at worst doomed federally, but voters in Albuquerque will have a chance to weigh in on what could be the nation’s first such ban at the city level next Tuesday. And proponents see it as part of a new strategy that involves pushing abortion restrictions at the local — rather than state or federal — level.

“Sometime in the state houses we’re not getting what we want,” said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, a pro-life group that has 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.”

Opponents say the ordinance amounts to a statewide ban, anyway, because the only New Mexico clinics that offer abortion at or after 20 weeks are in that city. Even then, just two clinics offer the procedures, which pro-choice advocates say is relatively rare. Critics have also assailed the measure as confusing, a fact supported by a recent local report. City Clerk Amy Bailey reported receiving an “unbelievable” number of calls about the measurer’s wording in a Friday Albuquerque Journal report.  The entirety of the ordinance — roughly 1,250 words of legislative language — appears on the ballot, which asks voters to mark whether they are for or against the measure without providing a summary.

“Our time now is really being spent getting accurate information to voters,” says Julianna Koob, legislative advocate for Planned Parenthood New Mexico.

Critics also note that the ordinance lacks typical exceptions for pregnancies that resulted from rape or incest, which Newman supports. “You don’t punish a human being for the crime of its parents,” he says. “If you rob a bank, I don’t throw your kids in jail.”

But even where an exception is made — in cases where a mother’s life is in danger — local pro-choice activists say the legislative language is too vague.

“It’s so narrow in practice that it’s basically meaningless,” says Micaela Cadena, a policy director with Young Women United, a New Mexico community organizing project for women of color. Her organization has joined with Koob’s and others to fight the measure under an umbrella organization called Respect ABQ Women.

An early September Albuquerque Journal poll found support for the measure outweighed opposition by 54 percent to 39 percent.

Thirteen states have banned abortions at or after 20 weeks and, if passed, Albuquerque’s ban would be the nation’s first at the municipal level, according to Reuters.

Niraj Chokshi is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
Republicans debated Saturday night. The South Carolina GOP primary and the Nevada Democratic caucuses are next on Feb. 20. Get caught up on the race.
The Post's Dan Balz says...
Rarely has the division between Trump and party elites been more apparent. Trump trashed one of the most revered families in Republican politics and made a bet that standing his ground is better than backing down. Drawing boos from the audience, Trump did not flinch. But whether he will be punished or rewarded by voters was the unanswerable question.
GOP candidates react to Justice Scalia's death
I don't know how he knows what I said on Univision because he doesn't speak Spanish.
Sen. Marco Rubio, attacking Sen. Ted Cruz in Saturday night's very heated GOP debate in South Carolina. Soon after, Cruz went on a tirade in Spanish.
The Fix asks The State's political reporter where the most important region of the state is.
The State's Andy Shain says he could talk about Charleston, which represents a little bit of everything the state has to offer from evangelicals to libertarians, and where Ted Cruz is raising more money than anywhere else. In a twist, Marco Rubio is drawing strong financial support from more socially conservative Upstate. That said, Donald Trump is bursting all the conventional wisdom in the state. So maybe the better answer to this question is, "Wherever Trump is."
Past South Carolina GOP primary winners
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the first state in the South to vote, where he faces rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 33%
The complicated upcoming voting schedule
Feb. 20

Democrats caucus in Nevada; Republicans hold a primary in South Carolina.

Feb. 23

Republicans caucus in Nevada.

Feb. 27

Democrats hold a primary in South Carolina.

Upcoming debates
Feb 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

March 6: Democratic debate

on CNN, in Flint, Mich.

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.