ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The group that forced the nation’s first, but unsuccessful, effort to ban late-term abortions at the municipal level is now target ing Gov. Susana Martinez, saying the Republican hasn’t done enough to fight abortion and is courting pro-abortion voters to win re-election.
Protest ABQ, led by anti-abortion activists Bud and Tara Shaver, has been showing up at recent public appearances by Martinez, the nation’s first Latina governor and rising star in the national GOP.
Last weekend, members of the group had a confrontation with Martinez’s political strategist, Jay McCleskey, after they took their protest to his neighborhood.
Tara Shaver said McCleskey “degraded” the group with vulgar language.
McCleskey said he confronted the group of about 20 as they marched in front of his house and raced a truck with a graphic billboard up and down the residential street.
“As a father, I objected to this group terrifying young children innocently playing in their neighborhood on a Saturday morning, including my own 8-year-old son, with grotesque posters and billboards of dead fetuses, and I think most parents would share my disgust,” McCleskey said.
The confrontation and the governor’s office’s response has only increased tensions, with Tara Shaver saying Wednesday that group “is going to keep exposing her.”
“Essentially, she has a short window of time to prove to us that she really is pro-life,” she said. “… She is not really concerned about doing what is right. She is more concerned about getting more pro-choice voters to support her because that is the only way she can win.”
Martinez spokesman Enrique Knell said in a statement that the governor “has been crystal clear that she is pro-life. … She isn’t going to be bullied by a small group of fringe protesters within the pro-life movement.”
Although abortion hasn’t been a hot-button issue in state elections, Albuquerque pollster Brian Sanderoff said continuing protests by the group could make it a bigger issue than Martinez would like in the election.
“On the one hand, pro-life voters have nowhere else to go but to support Gov. Martinez due to (Democratic nominee) Gary King’s pro-choice stance,” he said. “However, if the anti-abortion protester were to persist, then it would force the governor to continue to re-emphasize her strong pro-life position, which could conceivably alienate some of her pro-choice crossover Democrat and independent supporters.”
The Shavers are persistent. They first came to Albuquerque from Operation Rescue in Kansas in 2010 with the mission of shuttering Southwestern Women’s Options, one of the few late-term abortion clinics in the country. Unable to make headway at the Democrat-controlled state legislature, they gathered enough signatures to force a referendum on the issue in the state’s largest city in 2013. The ban was soundly rejected, but the Shavers vowed to stay and continue their fight.
Associated Press writer Barry Massey in Santa Fe contributed to this report.