Voters in Albuquerque, N.M., on Tuesday rejected a measure that would have banned abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy except to save the mother's life, marking a somewhat predictable end to a little-known fight that had raged in the state’s traditionally deep blue city.
The proposed measure, which was unique in that it put the decision to ban late-term abortions directly into the hands of the voters, was rejected 55 percent to 45 percent following a fierce and lopsided battle that pitted underfunded anti-abortion groups against wealthy pro-abortion groups including Planned Parenthood and NARAL.
Groups opposed to the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Ordinance outspent their opponents by a margin of 4-1, pumping approximately $800,000 into ads pleading with Albuquerque voters to reject the bill.
A coalition of pro-abortion groups called Tuesday's results a “huge victory for Albuquerque women and families.”
"Albuquerque families sent a powerful message today-they do not want the government interfering in their private medical decisions," Micaela Cadena with the Respect ABQ Women campaign said in a statement. "Dangerous, unconstitutional laws like the one we rejected today have no place in Albuquerque, no place in New Mexico, no place anywhere in our nation."
NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue said they hope the "resounding defeat of this abortion ban sends a clear message to the extreme forces around the country now trying to impose their agenda on cities around this country. "
Similar legislation has been debated at the state and federal level; at least 13 state legislatures have passed a ban on abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Abortion opponents had hoped that a victory in Albuquerque would create momentum in their long-running fight to ban abortion.
Father Frank Pavone, national director of the New York-based Priests for Life, said Tuesday night that the anti-abortion movement should not be discouraged.
"It is a brilliant strategy and we will see to it that this effort is introduced in other cities and states," he said in a statement. "The fact is, of course, that children have in fact been saved through this effort, simply because we have raised the issue of fetal pain, which does not even cross the minds of many abortionists."
Much of the campaign focused on the debate over when and whether fetuses can feel pain.
A leader of the failed initiative, Tara Shaver, said her group gathered signatures to put the issue to voters after failing to make headway in the Democrat-controlled legislature.
Asked if other cities with late-term abortion clinics might be targeted in the future, Shaver said, "We are encouraging people to see what can be done at the city level. ... We are starting to get calls from people asking us how to do what we have done."
Police were stationed near polling places Tuesday as protesters from both sides tried to persuade voters who were lining up before the polls closed. One school reported an hour wait.
Michelle Halfacre said she cast her ballot in favor of the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Ordinance.
"I had an abortion when I was young, and I regret it," Halfacre said. "I don't believe in it."
But Jonathan Cottrell, a crisis hotline volunteer, said he voted against the proposal because he believes it marks the beginning of a "slippery slope to ban abortion in general."
"I feel that women have the right to choose what to do to their body," Cottrell said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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