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Albuquerque, N.M., Schedules Special Election on 20-Week Abortion Ban Measure

Albuquerque, N.M., Schedules Special Election on 20-Week Abortion Ban Measure

September 18, 2013 — The Albuquerque, N.M., City Council on Monday voted 5-4 to hold a special election in November so that residents can vote on a ballot measure that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, the Albuquerque Journal reports (McKay, Albuquerque Journal, 9/17).

Antiabortion-rights activists were able to gather enough signatures to propose a city referendum on the measure, which failed to pass the state Legislature. If approved, the proposal would make Albuquerque the first city to impose such a ban, which mirrors statewide laws in a dozen other places (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/10).

According to the Journal, city council members could have approved the ordinance outright, but none of them expressed support for doing so. The special election on Nov. 19 for the ballot measure -- called the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Ordinance -- would coincide with a potential runoff election in the city's mayoral and other races.

The special election resolution also requires that the full five-page ordinance be included on the ballot, instead of a short summary, the Journal reports (Albuquerque Journal, 9/17). In addition, the resolution states that if a runoff election is not necessary in the other races, the proposed abortion ordinance will be decided by a mail-in vote (Mieczkowski, KOB, 9/16).

Questions About Constitutionality

Before Monday's vote, some council members questioned the constitutionality of the proposal and whether they should authorize a special election. City Council President Dan Lewis said the council members were following city charter law that mandates they schedule the election, adding, "It's not really our purview ... to decide whether this is constitutional or not."

However, some council members disagreed, particularly after a council policy analyst and lawyer said that courts in Arizona and Utah had struck down similar measures (Albuquerque Journal, 9/17).