In a new variation on state-local battles over controversial social issues, Albuquerque anti-abortion groups succeeded in gathering enough signatures to place on the city’s November ballot a measure that would criminalize abortion after 20 weeks with exceptions only to prevent the death or life-threatening physical condition of the woman. Called the Pain Capable Unborn Child Prevention Ordinance, the bill is modeled after a similar bill that passed in the Texas legislature after a flurry of national controversy this summer. The groups had been unable to move similar legislation at the state level, where the legislature is controlled by Democrats, and found more fertile ground through a signature drive in Albuquerque. Polling suggests the measure will pass.
Anti-abortion groups had already taken strategic steps into the local level through municipal zoning ordinances that increased structural requirements for clinics. Given abortion dynamics, the provision faces almost certain court challenge on constitutional grounds; it will be interesting to see if the measure’s opponents make preemption challenges to the city’s authority to regulate abortion. At the state level, New Mexico already bans certain kinds of abortion post-viability.