Albuquerque residents voted down a measure on Tuesday night that would have outlawed abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It’s a significant blow to the anti-choice community, which hoped that New Mexico’s most populous city might become the first municipality in the country with a local ban on abortion.
The fight over abortion rights in New Mexico sparked a contentious campaign that captured national attention, and an usually high number of voters turned out to cast their ballots in the special election. Ultimately, they rejected the proposed 20-week ban by 55 percent to 45 percent.
“We hope today’s resounding defeat of this abortion ban sends a clear message to the extreme forces around the country now trying to impose their agenda on cities around this country,” Ilyse House, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement. “When voters hear the real stories of real women and families facing these difficult decisions, they understand the danger and complexity of putting government between women and their doctors at these moments.”
The proposed abortion restriction in Albuquerque would have outlawed abortions after 20 weeks without any exceptions for rape, incest, the health of the fetus, or the health of the woman — even though many of the women who need later abortion care discover serious fetal defects that will cause their unborn child to suffer outside of the womb. It would have also forced one of the very last late-term abortion clinics in the country to stop offering those services, impacting the entire Southwestern region of the United States. The only other clinics that openly perform these type of later abortions are in Colorado and Maryland.
The outcome in Albuquerque represents a serious set-back for the anti-choice community’s recent momentum on this issue. 20-week bans have become somewhat of a flash point in the debate over abortion rights — and it’s a fight that abortion opponents believe they can win, largely by leveraging the emotional outrage over later abortion procedures. Over a dozen states have now enacted this type of abortion restriction. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a national 20-week ban in June, and the Senate introduced one just last week.
But, as Tuesday’s election proves, restrictions on later abortions aren’t necessarily popular with the American people. Recent polling has demonstrated this, too. When Americans are given more context about the reasons that some women may need later abortion care, they tend to oppose 20-week abortion bans.
In spite of the victory for reproductive access, some women’s health advocates are warning that the special election in New Mexico is a stark reminder that abortion rights are continually placed in danger.
“This vote illustrates the very real threat that essential women’s health care continues to face from those who seek to make it illegal, indifferent to the devastating consequences that women will suffer,” Nancy Northup, the president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights, pointed out in a statement. “Women’s constitutional rights and access to reproductive health care should not depend on where she lives, and no woman should ever have to worry that a public vote will be used to diminish either one.”