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.
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.