Abortion foes take fight to municipal level in NM

July 27, 2013 • State News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Anti-abortion activists behind new st[auth] ate laws to ban abortions after 20 weeks are taking their fight to the municipal level in New Mexico, turning in more than twice the needed signatures to get such a ban placed on the ballot for Albuquerque’s local elections.

Tara Shaver, who helped organize the effort, says Albuquerque is the first city being targeted because it is home to one of the few clinics in the country that offers late-term abortions and because the Democrat-controlled Legislature has failed to seriously consider its requests for restrictions at the state level.

The city attorney has said he doubts such a city ordinance could trump the federal law guaranteeing women a right to abortion, and the American Civil Liberties Union has vowed to challenge the ordinance should it pass.

“We agree with the Albuquerque city attorney that this proposal is an unconstitutional violation of women’s privacy,” ACLU of New Mexico attorney Alexandra Freedman Smith said. “The decision to end a pregnancy is an extremely complex one for women and their families. The government should not be involved.”

Similar restrictions enacted by a number of state legislatures face legal challenges. Courts have blocked 20-week abortion bans in Arizona and two other states from taking effect.

“We need to see what comes of it,” Shaver said. “Let the voices of the people be heard. If it is challenged, let’s defend it and see if we can’t do it. It’s all in the interest of public safety because these late-term abortions are so dangerous.”

Shaver said her group, Project Defending Life, which works with the group Operation Rescue, has turned in to the city clerk a total of 26,980 signatures, more than double those needed to force the city to hold an election on the issue.

The proposed ordinance is three pages long, calling for a ban on all abortions after 20 weeks unless the mother’s life is in danger. And in such exceptions, it says the doctor must terminate the pregnancy in a way that “provides the best opportunity for the child to survive.”

Albuquerque is home to Southwestern Women’s Options Clinic, one of just a few clinics in the country that openly performs late-term abortions.

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