This Halloween, kids in northwest Albuquerque received some unexpected materials in their trick-or-treat bags. In addition to candy bars and lollipops, they also got several anti-choice cards with images of fetuses on them — one proclaiming “I am not a clump of cells,” another saying “I am a human being,” and one emblazoned with “53 million killed.”
“We just noticed these cards attached to certain candies and started pulling them off, and we were pretty shocked to see that kind of stuff targeted at kids,” one parent, Frank Valdez, told local news affiliate KRQE News 13. “They’re forcing an agenda on little kids, pretty much.”
To some adults in the community, the timing of the cards seemed suspicious. Anti-choice groups in Albuquerque are currently pushing for a citywide ban on abortion procedures after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The measure is on the ballot for a special election that will take place on November 19, and early voting has already begun. If it’s approved, Albuquerque may become the first city in the U.S. with its own local ban on abortion.
Local news outlet KOB 4 confirmed that the official group lobbying for the 20-week ban, Protect ABQ Women and Children, wasn’t responsible for the cards passed out to trick-or-treaters. But Elisa Martinez, who heads the group, didn’t criticize the effort.
“Everything that we’re putting out is focused on this ordinance and passing the ordinance,” Martinez told KOB. “Whatever anyone else feels empowered to do, we’re not going to stop them.”
20-week abortion bans — often called “fetal pain laws” because they’re based on the scientifically disputed notion that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks of pregnancy — are becoming a flash point in the debate over reproductive freedom. Since Roe v. Wade guarantees the right to an abortion until the point of viability, generally understood to be at about 24 weeks, advancing fetal pain measures is an effective method of slowly chipping away at those protections.
Nine states currently impose bans on abortion procedures after 20 weeks. In June, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a national 20-week ban. And Republicans are still pushing the issue. On Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) appeared on “Fox News Sunday” to discuss his intention to introduce a companion measure in the Senate, claiming that the question of restricting abortion rights between 20 and 24 weeks “is a debate worthy of a great democracy.”
These legislative initiatives are fueled by the anti-abortion community’s ability to leverage emotional outrage over later abortions, which they typically conflate with gruesome illegal procedures. In reality, however, abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy are very rare, and typically occur in desperate circumstances. When Americans are given more context about why a women might need to have a later abortion, they tend to oppose 20-week bans.