This month, there’s a 20-week abortion ban up for vote in Albuquerque, New Mexico. If it passes, Albuquerque may become the first city in the country with a local abortion restriction on the books. It’s been a contentious fight centered on a late-term abortion clinic in the area — one of the last clinics in the country that provides those services in the aftermath of Dr. George Tiller’s murder.
Early voting on the ballot initiative has already begun, and the anti-choice community is currently pulling out all the stops to drum up support for the 20-week ban. One local activist is driving around a huge truck plastered with graphic images of bloody fetuses, for instance. But the reproductive rights community is fighting back. They have formed a group called “Respect ABQ Women,” and they’re drawing on support from local faith leaders.
Led by the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, a wide range of people of faith are working to defeat the proposed abortion restriction in Albuquerque. Members of Catholics for Choice — an international organization representing Catholic people who support reproductive freedom — have joined the effort, too. This week, Catholics for Choice is placing radio ads on several local stations to highlight the religious members of the community who oppose the ballot initiative. The group will also run a print ad that includes several quotes from pro-choice Catholics in the area.
“As a Catholic, I believe in social justice. Women have abortions for different reasons, and none of those reasons are for us to judge or criticize,” Bernadette, one of the Albuquerque residents who appears in a radio ad, explains.
Most Americans may simply assume that religion and reproductive rights must always be in conflict. The New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice’s executive director, Joan Lamunyon Sanford, doesn’t believe that’s true.
“People of faith and clergy have been long-time supporters and proponents of reproductive justice, and New Mexico is no different,” Lamunyon Sanford explained in a recent interview with the Center for American Progress’ Sally Steenland. “The faith leaders and people of faith who we are reaching out to have been part of our network for many, many years. So these are people who are long-time supporters of reproductive justice, and they’re ready to stand up and defeat this harmful ballot measure.”
Indeed, most religious groups support women’s right to a legal abortion services under Roe v. Wade. And many of those faith communities see “reproductive justice” as a holistic concept, encompassing family planning and preventative services as well as abortion access. For instance, after Texas lawmakers slashed funding for Planned Parenthood clinics — a move that jeopardized thousands of low-income women’s access to health care — a group of faith leaders prayed for the state to reverse its course.
The conservative religious voices speaking out against abortion have dominated the conversation for years. But groups like the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice aren’t giving up.
“We’re out there; we’re visible,” Lamunyon Sanford noted. “And the real actions of a person of faith who’s doing this because of their faith does so much more and says so much more than that stereotypical demonizing rhetoric that our opponents like to use.”