Anti-abortion rights activists have presented a petition to the Albuquerque City Council asking it to put a 20-week abortion ban to a citywide vote this fall. The proposal mirrors Texas’ 20-week abortion ban, which Gov. Rick Perry signed into law earlier this month and would effectively ban abortion after 20 weeks in New Mexico, as Albuquerque is the only city in the state where abortions are performed at or after that time.
Last week, a group calling itself Project Defending Life submitted nearly 27,000 signatures to the city council, which needs about 13,000 signatures to put the initiative on the city ballot this October. Voter turnout for that election, which includes a vote for Albuquerque mayor, is expected to be high, and reproductive justice activists are already working to counter the proposed ban.
“We are fighting this because we do trust women to make those deeply personal and complex decisions with their families and medical providers and within the context of their faith,” said Micaela Cardenas with a community organizing project called Young Women United. Cardenas’ group is working with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico, which released a statement last week denouncing the ban.
“We agree with the Albuquerque city attorney that this proposal is an unconstitutional violation of women’s privacy,” said ACLU lawyer Alexandra Freedman Smith in a statement. According to KRQE, the city has said that state law, which allows abortion after 20 weeks, would overrule any municipal ordinance banning abortion in Albuquerque.
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A coalition of anti-abortion rights ministries appear to be behind the proposed ban, but a representative for Voices for Family Values told KRQE that the project was born of a “grassroots effort” among Albuquerque women. Critics of the ban say it is the result of a targeted effort by nationwide anti-abortion rights groups with few ties to New Mexico.
The faces of the petition campaign so far have been two “pro-life missionaries,” named Bud and Tara Shaver, who were sent to Albuquerque in 2010 by Kansas-based Operation Rescue. In a statement made last week via Pro-Life New Mexico, Tara Shaver said, “The people of Albuquerque have let their voices be heard with this initiative.”
But Cardenas says the Shavers and their backers do not represent New Mexicans. “They’re here in our state to bring their agenda into our communities.”