Albuquerque city voters will weigh in on a proposed municipal abortion ban during a special election on Nov. 19.
The abortion proposal, which would ban the procedure in Albuquerque for women further than 20 weeks pregnant, will be on the ballot along with a runoff for the District 7 city council seat. In Albuquerque, candidates in races with more than two contenders must garner 50 percent of the vote or the top two candidates end up on a runoff ballot.
Though the proposed ban would only apply to Albuquerque, its effects would be felt well beyond the city limits, since New Mexico's three surgical abortion providers are located in Albuquerque. One of them, Southwestern Women's Options, is one of three clinics in the nation that provide abortions to women in their third trimester of pregnancy, also known as late-term abortions.
The measure would effectively ban late-term abortions in the Southwest.
SFR's cover story this week takes a look into how the Albuquerque ballot measure, as well as creeping restrictions across the nation, are affecting women's access to abortion in New Mexico.
Though a recent Albuquerque Journal poll found 54 percent of likely city voters in favor of the 20-weeks-ban, several have raised objections into whether such a law could actually be enforced. State Attorney General Gary King today released a letter opining that such a city law would violate the state and federal constitutions.
Albuquerque City Councilor Trudy Jones also plans to introduce a resolution at the Oct. 9 City Council meeting that would call for a court to weigh in on whether the ban would be legal. Project Defending Life, an Albuquerque-based organization pushing for the ban, released a statement today that they have asked attorneys at Life Legal Defense Foundation to "caution the city council on moving forward" on Trudy Jones' resolution.
Read Attorney General Gary King's letter and press release below:
AG: ABQ Abortion Ordinance Unenforceable
(SANTA FE)In a letter to an Albuquerque City Councilor, state Attorney General Gary King says similar abortion-banning ordinances have widely been struck down by federal courts on U.S. Constitutional grounds. Additionally, says the AG, such enactments run afoul of other arguments in the New Mexico Constitution.
“It is important that voters know that federal and New Mexico constitutional limitations make a ban on any otherwise legal abortion unenforceable,” says Attorney General Gary King. “Additionally, recent federal court actions have struck down ordinances identical or similar to the proposed measure in Albuquerque.”
Councilor Trudy Jones had requested a formal Attorney General’s Opinion on the ordinance but only state officials are authorized to make such requests. Instead, the AG responded in the form of an an informal letter of explanation concerning the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Ordinance.”
The letter states: The grounds for striking down these statutes is rooted in Roe v. Wade...in which the U.S. Supreme Court declared that a pregnant woman has a constitutional right...to choose to terminate her pregnancy before “viability.” Viability is defined as the timeframe after which “the fetus...presumably has the capability of meaningful life outside the mother’s womb.”...Significantly, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals--which governs federal cases arising out of New Mexico--struck down a ban on abortions enacted in Utah because it unconstitutionally established viability at twenty weeks...overwhelming weight of judicial authority does not support enactments, like the...Albuquerque ordinance...we believe the...measure would not be legally enforceable.
AG King adds, “Voters have the right to know and decide whether they want to bear the protracted expense of litigation over a measure that is unconstitutional and unenforceable.”