PHOENIX – Albuquerque may wind up with the nation’s first local ban on some abortions after activists collected enough signatures to put the issue before voters in New Mexico’s largest city.
The move to circumvent the Democrats who run the State Legislature and target a clinic in the city comes as abortion foes have racked up unprecedented statehouse victories. Opponents have begun to take their fight to city halls by pushing measures to impose new limits and, if they succeed in Albuquerque, may expand their use of the tactics, said Cheryl Sullenger, senior policy adviser at Operation Rescue.
The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Ordinance proposed in Albuquerque would impose a citywide ban on terminating pregnancies after 20 weeks, similar to laws passed in at least 10 states since 2010, including Arizona and Texas. A court struck down the Arizona law while other states have put the new rules on hold pending court review.
“What else can we do to save women and children from abortion?” said Tara Shaver, 29, a spokeswoman for Project Defending Life, a Catholic group in the city.
Abortion foes already have used zoning changes and other municipal tactics to close clinics elsewhere in the country. In July, Virginia’s busiest provider of the service closed after changes in state and local rules, said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, a reproductive-rights advocacy group.NOVA Women’s Healthcare, a clinic that performed more than 3,000 abortions last year, sought to relocate within Fairfax, Va., after its landlord sued in part because of protests by anti-abortion groups, Keene said.
After identifying a building on Main Street that could meet new state clinic requirements slated to take effect next year, Fairfax rejected its application in May, citing insufficient parking, Keene said. In July, the City Council passed rules reclassifying clinics as medical care facilities, requiring a $4,800 permit and Council approval.
“They were hit on all sides from a policy standpoint and, unfortunately, the women’s health facility was not able to overcome the obstacles that these politicians put in their way to remain open and offer services to their patients,” Keene said. Similar restrictions were put in place in Virginia’s Stafford County, blocking clinics from opening there, she said.
“This is definitely a new tactic that the anti-choice side of this debate is taking,” Keene said. “You can target where these facilities are located at the county, city or town level.”