Voters in Albuquerque defeated a historic ballot measure that would have banned abortion after 20 weeks, dealing the anti-abortion movement a blow.
Two hours after the polls closed, with nearly half of precincts reporting, local media called the race a defeat for the ban, 55 to 45, and that number held stead. About a quarter of Albuquerque’s registered voters, 87,296 in total, voted in the special election, more than voted in the regular election for mayor earlier this month.
“Today Albuquerque voters respected women—and sent a clear message here and across the country that voters reject callous attempts to take away complex, personal decisions from women, their families, and their faith,” said Adriann Barboa, Respect ABQ Women Steering Committee and Field Director for Strong Families New Mexico. “We won in part because of the strong, diverse local organizations that have pulled together, year after year, to ensure justice for every New Mexico family. “
The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that states–let alone cities–cannot ban abortion before viability, and 20- week bans premised on disproved notions of “fetal pain” draw the line several weeks before viability. Albuquerque’s proposed ban was also intended to close a clinic where two of the four doctors who openly perform third-trimester abortions work. Supporters also hoped to create a popular groundswell against later abortion by passing a municipal ban in a blue state, echoing the state-wide pre-viability bans passed in thirteen other states.
Despite their decades-long refrain that Roe v. Wade went against the will of the people, opponents of abortion haven’t had much luck at the ballot box. Personhood amendments have been struck down twice in Colorado and once in Mississippi, by some measures the most conservative state in the union. In 2006, voters in South Dakota rejected an absolute abortion ban. Two years later, they were asked to vote on a similar ban, this time with exceptions for rape and incest, and they rejected that too.
The Albuquerque ban could have been different, because it focused on abortions after 20 weeks, which usually splinters support in public opinion polls. Indeed, in a September Albuquerque Journal poll, 54% of voters claimed they supported the ban.
But that poll was far more clearly worded than the unwieldy 1,293 words on the ballot. And that was before two months of well-funded pro-choice messaging against the ban, as well as weeks of the bloody “truth truck” and other graphic images forming the face of the ban.
Early voting numbers came in overwhelmingly against the ban. (A majority of absentee ballots, which had been distributed in many religious congregations, went for the ban, but there were far fewer of them). The early ballots accounted for just over 50,000 votes–of which 58% were cast by women.