Whelan: New Mexico vote defeating 20-week abortion ban hits close to home

November 25, 2013 



— Tuesday’s rejection by Albuquerque voters of what would have been the first-ever municipal abortion ban marks a major victory for women’s health and shows that voters don’t want to take personal medical decisions out of the hands of women and their doctors. If approved, the measure would have banned abortions at 20 weeks, even for victims of rape and incest and in cases of severe fetal abnormalities and when a woman’s health is in danger.

Albuquerque voters turned out in droves in what was supposed to be a low-turnout municipal special election to reject the ban by 10 percentage points. This confirms what we’ve seen in recent polls: When voters understand the real-world circumstances surrounding abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, they reject measures to ban it.

Nearly 99 percent of abortions in the United States occur before 21 weeks’ gestation, and when they do happen later, it is often the case that a woman and her doctor needed every medical option available.

But this ballot measure was not about the very rare cases where abortion happens later in pregnancy; it was part of a coordinated strategy to ban abortion in all 50 states. The rejected ban is nearly identical to a bill recently introduced by our very own U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham. This is politics at its worst. Sen. Graham clearly is trying to score political points with the conservative base as he faces opposition from state Sen. Lee Bright, an extreme ideologue who has also introduced a 20-week abortion ban, S.626, in the S.C. Senate.

Let the vote in Albuquerque be a lesson to S.C. lawmakers: The public doesn’t want the government dictating a woman’s deeply personal decisions. And come January, when the Legislature is back in session, they should fight back against attempts to pass similar legislation. Instead they should focus on the real solutions: expanding access to contraception and medically accurate sexuality education. Three out of 10 young women in South Carolina will become pregnant by age 20. It is clear that South Carolina is in the midst of a serious reproductive health crisis, and we all should be able to agree that putting prevention first is the best way to prevent unintended and teen pregnancies.

Sloane Whelan

S.C. Director of Public Affairs

Planned Parenthood Health

Systems Action Fund


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