Historic Early Voter Turn-Out for Albuquerque 20-Week Abortion Ban Ordinance


A record number of Albuquerque residents have cast ballots as election day nears for an ordinance that will decide whether women will continue to have the right to terminate pregnancies after 20 weeks’ gestation in the city.

If passed, the ban would effectively cut off access to abortions after 20 weeks in the entire region. Thirteen states, including Texas and Arizona, have passed 20-week abortion bans. The ordinance would also be the first municipal abortion ban in the nation.

The Albuquerque City Council put the ordinance on the ballot after anti-choice activists secured the 12,091 petition signatures required to trigger an election. Early voting began on October 30 and continues through this week, with election day taking place on November 19.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that early voting participation is about twice what it was during the mayoral election in October. City Clerk Amy Bailey told the paper that the numbers are unprecedented. “This election is incomparable to anything we’ve ever seen in the city early voting-wise,” she said.

The only public opinion poll on the issue, from September, shows that 54 percent of “likely city voters” support the measure, while 39 percent oppose the measure, with 5 percent undecided.

Ads both supporting and opposing the ordinance began appearing on local Albuquerque television this week. In one ad paid for by Respect ABQ Women, a coalition of reproductive rights organizations, Albuquerque physician Dr. Sandra Penn encourages residents to vote against the “false and misleading ordinance,” which she describes as government interference “in our most personal decisions.” Another ad tells the story of a woman who decided to terminate a pregnancy after 20 weeks’ gestation.

Ads supporting the ordinance, paid for by the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List, rely on the disproven notion of “fetal pain.”

The wording of the ordinance has left voters confused. Bailey told the Albuquerque Journal that her office has been handling an “unbelievable” amount of inquiries about the meaning of the proposed ordinance. The constitutionality of the ordinance has also come into question, with New Mexico Attorney General Gary King recently saying that “federal court actions have struck down ordinances identical or similar to the proposed measure in Albuquerque,” citing a Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that struck down a comparable ban.

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  • fiona64

    This is so stupid. Many fetal anomalies cannot even be *detected* before 20 weeks’ gestation. Way to go, Albuquerque; women with money will be able to get a full range of services by traveling, and the underprivileged will be stuck. Again.

    • GMS

      I wouldn’t blame albuquerque just yet, they’re just the battleground. And it’s definitely a test run of city bans for the right to lifers.

      That said, only albuquerque residents can vote, so if it passes…

      • fiona64

        The fact that it even got to the *ballot* is disturbing enough for me to blame ABQ for this.

        • JamieHaman

          From the party claiming to be ‘smaller government’ but only if you aren’t a woman. F’ed up.

        • babylettuce

          How long shall we give Mom to decide? 9 months? You are disturbing to me. And, yes I voted in favor of the ban, today.

          • fiona64

            Since the majority of fetal anomalies cannot be detected earlier than 20 weeks’ gestation, well, I’ll just say “Congratulations! You’ve voted to make women who can’t afford to travel carry doomed pregnancies to term! You must feel so proud.”

            What a vile, anti-woman, anti-child stance you’ve taken.

            And how glad I am that this absurd bill failed.

          • JamieHaman

            We give Mom until 24 weeks for the most part. 24 weeks is the early edge of viability, and that is with a NICU ready to go. Parents with a lot of money, and hopefully excellent insurance, so they aren’t homeless after their child comes home from the hospital.
            Every woman who has the money for an medical abortion does NOT carry until 20 weeks, and decide today is a good day for an abortion.
            Post 20 week abortions are almost always about quality of life for the fetus, or the mother’s health.
            Clearly you don’t care about either.

  • fiona64

    Many of those who signed the petition and protested in raise awareness
    don’t even live here. They were bussed in from TX, UT, and more
    conservative communities in the eastern part of the state.

    How would these signatures even be valid for a city ordinance?

    • Quin Lewellen

      Sorry, I tried to edit my comment and it wouldn’t let me. I didn’t mean to imply out-of-towners signed the petition, even though they haven’t proved that they didn’t. I meant that this entire thing was spearheaded by out of town groups. Primarily a group called “Operation Rescue”. The real proponents of the ban have been overwhelmingly from places other than Albuquerque. When protests started back in the spring, the local news covered it, and when they asked protesters where they live, only one interviewed was actually from Albuquerque, the rest were from the Dallas area, California, Kansas, Utah, or other communities in NM, miles from Albuquerque. They only needed 12K signatures to get the issue on a ballot, that’s in a city of 600K people. Sorry for the confusion. This is an issue that isn’t really supported by the majority of Albuquerque residents, even though it will probably pass for the reasons I stated earlier, and the campaign for it has been rife with lies and misinformation, as well as harassment on the part of protesters that forced a new city ordinance that prevents protests at private residences after doctors were being harassed at home. The real goal here is to set a precedent that can be copied in other communities around the country to circumvent state and federal laws and make reproductive rights municipal issues. Ultimately I don’t think it will succeed as it clearly violates state and federal law, and will only clog up courts and waste a lot of money, for something that will most certainly be overturned by the courts.

      • fiona64

        Thanks for your explanation. Yes, “Operation Rescue” is rather notorious. Ugh.

        • Quin Lewellen

          The ban didn’t pass. They just called it here on the news in ABQ. To my surprise the voter turnout was quite strong and the ordinance was defeated 56% to 44% with almost 90K votes cast.

          • fiona64

            That’s excellent news. There’s a poster below who voted in favor or it, clearly not understanding that the passage of this anti-woman, anti-child bill would have forced women with doomed pregnancies to carry to term — unless, of course, they could afford to travel. As NM has the second-highest poverty rate in the nation, that would be a very small subset of women … while the underprivileged would have had to suffer. As usual.

    • Quin Lewellen

      Now it let me edit my comment. Oh well, sorry for the confusion earlier.

    • Quin Lewellen

      Also, the actual ordinance proposal that appears on the ballot here wasn’t even written by locals. It was written word for word by members of “Operation Rescue” from California, and after reading it online, and hearing from some who voted early, the wording is very (intentionally) confusing. Unfortunately I suspect some will vote for the ordinance thinking they’ll have the opposite desired effect. I’ve educated myself on this issue, and you can bet that I’ll be at my polling place tomorrow to vote no on this ridiculous proposal. I certainly hope others who value the freedom of women to make their own personal choices about their health, and stop government intrusion into the most private decisions of citizens in general, will vote this proposal down.

  • babylettuce

    How long does the decision to abort a child take? I can’t believe we are arguing for anything longer than 3 months. This has gone waaay beyond rediculous.

    • Quin Lewellen

      Late term abortions are rare, and they are almost always due to the health of the baby or the mother being at risk due to complications. This ban didn’t pass however, they just called it on the news here in ABQ.

      • babylettuce

        Are you celebrating? What a sickness to be happy over killing a baby. Fighting to kill a baby. I can not imagine that any woman would be able to live with herself after taking such action when she carried the child for over 3 months. I hope she suffers a living Hell, because that is what she is doing to an innocent child.

        • Quin Lewellen

          I think you misinterpreted me, I would never celebrate the death of anyone, and frankly you’re kind of sick to suggest that. I am however pleased that the constitutionally protected rights of women to make their own private health care decisions without interference by the government was maintained. Believe me that no mother is happy to have to terminate a pregnancy at that stage when complications arise, but it is the decision of her, her family, and her doctor at that point, not the district attorney’s office. Are you suggesting that it’s more humane to let the baby be born and suffocate to death, or risk the life of the mother, instead of anaesthetizing the poor baby and ending the pregnancy as safely and humanely as possible? I find that pretty sickening actually. Are you prepared to help cover the astronomical expense of the lifelong medical care that baby would need if it should happen to survive and live out it’s life with debilitating and excruciating conditions? That’s exactly what you’re advocating the rest of us to do, and frankly it sounds pretty sadistic to force someone with that quality of life to continue. The problem with your entire argument is that you assume we’re fighting to kill babies like we’re maniacal sociopaths, when we’re actually fighting to protect the rights of women and families to make their own private and intimate health decisions without interference from an overreaching government. If you’re fighting to protect babies with no possibility of life, or fighting to see to it that mothers die during childbirth, as well as for the government to intervene in our most private decisions, then you’re the only sick one here.

        • M.l. John

          I would hazard the opinion that the vast majority of the women who have abortions after 20 weeks are already in a living hell. If you have waited five months to abort your child, you wanted the child. Gestational complications, such as missing kidneys, etc, cannot be found until the 20 week ultrasound. A child like that cannot live outside its mother’s womb. It will die as soon as it is disconnected from the umbilical cord. That’s a wonderful fate for an innocent child, huh? Plus mom and dad have spent an additional four months knowing they’re having a child who will never survive. Keeping abortion to before 20 weeks is arbitrary political number that has nothing to do with medicine. It horrifies me that you would judge people going through something so awful without having done an ounce of research into the matter.