After Ballot Defeat, N.M. Abortion-Rights Opponents Look to Legislature

November 27, 2013 — Abortion-rights opponents in New Mexico plan to redirect their efforts toward the state Legislature after Albuquerque voters rejected a ballot measure that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, the Albuquerque Journal reports.

Although abortion issues typically fail to move out of committee in the Democratic-controlled Legislature, abortion-rights opponents said attention to the ballot initiative proves that lawmakers should take a closer look (Monteleone, Albuquerque Journal, 11/25). The measure garnered record voter turnout in the city, exceeding last month's mayoral election by 17,000 votes, according to the city clerk's office. In total, nearly 87,000 votes were cast (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/20).

Elisa Martinez -- chair of Protect ABQ Women and Children, which pushed for the Albuquerque ballot measure -- said, "The rest of the state is a lot less liberal than the city of Albuquerque." She added, "I think the difference (in the Legislature) is that it's the responsibility of our leadership to look out for and enact laws on the behalf of the well-being of its citizenry."

However, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez (D) said, "Albuquerque can be a barometer for the rest of the state." He added that if abortion restrictions are introduced, "I'm sure a lot of legislators will be looking at the results of what happened there" when considering the bill.

30-Day Session Supposed To Focus on Budget

According to the Journal, the Legislature's 30-day session is intended to address budget issues, but other topics may be added at the governor's discretion. A spokesperson for Gov. Susana Martinez (R) said she has not decided whether to allow abortion issues for debate in 2014.

Right to Life Committee of New Mexico officials said the governor committed to them that she would allow consideration of legislation that would change parental notification rules for minors seeking abortions (Albuquerque Journal, 11/25).

Letter To Editor Denounces NYT Quote

In a New York Times letter to the editor, Catholics for Choice President Jon O'Brien writes, "Contrary to an activist in New Mexico quoted in your article, we do have considerable knowledge about what Catholics think when it comes to abortion."

He disputes a quote from activist Pat Davis, who told the Times, "'There's not a model anywhere in the country to help us figure out whether a Catholic Hispanic woman thinks that an abortion ban that makes no exception for rape or incest has gone too far.'"

O'Brien writes, "In fact, polling and results in other jurisdictions, including Florida, Mississippi, North Dakota, Colorado and California, show that Americans, including Catholics and Hispanics, reject ballot measures intended to restrict abortion rights, whether those measures seek to manufacture rights for embryos or ban later abortion."

He notes that U.S. Catholics "have abortions and support access to abortion services at the same rate as other women do," while Hispanics "support access to and avail themselves of abortion care at rates similar to or higher than other [U.S.] women" (O'Brien, New York Times, 11/25).