Here's Why This City's Abortion Vote Has National Implications

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Albuquerque voters rejected a ballot referendum on Tuesday that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy in a vote that has national implications.


The ballot measure was the first of its kind to take place in a municipality, and anti-abortion activists had hoped to influence the national abortion debate by proving they could pass a new abortion restriction in a liberal city.

But they failed and pro-choice advocates claimed victory. As the New York Times noted, “For political strategists, it also offered a chance to test the way their message on abortion resonated among Hispanics, a key constituency that accounts for nearly half of the residents in Albuquerque and New Mexico, and is one of the fastest-growing populations in the country.”


The ban was rejected by a relatively wide 10-point margin. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, Latinos do hold slightly more conservative views than the national average when it comes to abortion, but more than 40 percent of Hispanics say it should be legal in all or most cases. And young Hispanics, a fast-growing segment of the population, are more likely to be pro-choice than their older peers.

While the ban would have been limited to just the city on paper, it would have prevented women far beyond the city's limits from having abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy in practice.

Just two clinics in the entire state perform abortions for people at 20 weeks, and both are in Albuquerque. Had the ban passed, women would have been forced to cross state lines to have the procedure. Already, women from Texas, which recently passed a 20-week abortion ban, come to the clinics. Nearby Arizona also has a 20-week ban.

The Southwestern Women's Options clinic is one of just several clinics nationwide that performs abortions after 26 weeks of pregnancy. Very few women have abortions that far into pregnancy, but there are certain anomalies that only show up after 20 weeks.


While pro-choice advocates are hailing the vote as a victory for women’s reproductive rights, anti-abortion bills and measures are a Tea Party-backed trend that’s not going away anytime soon.

“We are encouraging people to see what can be done at the city level,” a leader of the initiative, Tara Shaver, told the Associated Press. “We are starting to get calls from people asking us how to do what we have done."


Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.

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