ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Citizens in Albuquerque will vote Tuesday on a referendum that would effectively ban abortions after 20 weeks, making it the first city in the nation to pass such a ban.
Thirteen states in the U.S. currently have laws banning late-term abortions, but Albuquerque would be the first to attempt it on a municipal level.
“This is a new strategy — no one has ever tried this at a municipal level,” said Patrick Davis, director of ProgressNow New Mexico, as quoted by Grace Wyler in Time. “The bottom line is we don’t know how this is going to go.”
If passed, the ban would only apply to the city. However, Politico reports that the only two health clinics that perform late-term abortions in the state are located in Albuquerque, effectively banning the procedure throughout the state.
The Albuquerque Journal reported that in order to put the measure on the ballot, supporters needed at least 12,091 signatures in favor of the measure. Supporters garnered twice as many petition signatures as needed as of July — more than 27,000.
Since the measure was added to the ballot, pro-life and pro-choice advocacy groups have inundated the city with out-of-state volunteers and demonstrations.
“Out-of-state groups have led some of the most aggressive demonstrations in the city,” wrote Dan McKay in the Albuquerque Journal. “They call Albuquerque the ‘late-term abortion capital’ of the country.”
Despite the fact that the ordinance — titled the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Ordinance — allows for late-term abortions if the mother’s life is in danger, pro-choice groups have responded by saying the ordinance poses a real threat to women’s abortion rights.
“The extremely personal decision whether to have a safe, legal abortion belongs between a woman and her doctor,” said Alexandra Freedman Smith, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, as quoted in the Albuquerque Journal. “This organized effort is all about ignoring the personal circumstances of women and putting the government in the exam room where it doesn’t belong.”
Both sides have raised and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for various get-out-the-vote initiatives in support of one measure or the other. According to Time, the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life advocacy group, has already spent $176,000 in the last six weeks while pro-choice groups like Respect ABQ Women, a coalition of Planned Parenthood and American Civil Liberties Union, has raised $680,000 to defeat the ordinance.
Sam Clemence is an intern for Deseret News where he works with the opinion section staff and as a reporter for the enterprise team.