On Tuesday, Albuquerque's special ballot measure to ban abortions after 20-weeks of conception failed, after an intense months-long campaign that saw out more voters than a recent mayoral race. Albuquerque voters defeated the special referendum by a 55-45 percent margin.
The New Mexico city nearly became the first city in the U.S. to enact a strict abortion ban at the municipal level, similar to the "20-week" bans favored lately by states like Texas, North Carolina, Louisiana, and ten others. Seven of those bills were adopted in the last year, but are currently suspended in legal limbo. However, because of where New Mexico's clinics are located, The New York Times points out that the municipal bill would have effectively banned the procedure throughout the state.
The ban would have affected the entire state, given that the only two clinics that perform abortion at that stage in the pregnancy are in Albuquerque. One, Southwestern Women’s Options, is perhaps one of the only in the country to openly admit it does abortions after 20 weeks; out-of-state license plates can often be spotted in its parking lot.
Abortion opponents chose Albuquerque as their battleground almost entirely because of Southwestern's Women's Options. The referendum was not written by city lawyers or municipal lawmakers: outside groups worked hard over the summer to gather enough signatures on a petition to force the special election. "New Mexico Attorney General Gary King said he didn’t believe it would be legally enforceable because similar laws have been struck down in federal court," the Albuquerque Journal notes. Every other 20-week abortion ban in the country is currently held up in court by lawsuits from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, which celebrated Tuesday's victory.
But the spotlight inspired citizens in the predominantly "blue" state to send a message to abortion opponents that they took a wrong left turn when they came to Albuquerque. "About 24 percent of the city’s voters participated in Tuesday’s election, compared to 20 percent in the mayor’s race," the Journal points out.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.