Teenage Protest Pilgrimage Arrives
Young adults bused in to reinforce local pro-life movement
By Barron Jones
The battle to limit access to late-term abortions in Albuquerque took an unexpected turn last week with help from an unlikely source. Teens and young adults converged on Albuquerque to take part in a nine-day public awareness campaign that included demonstrations outside the New Mexico Holocaust & Intolerance Museum.
A handful of teens from the anti-abortion organization Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust gathered on Central across from the museum holding a large, misspelled banner that declared “ABQ: America’s Aushwitz [sic]” while others passed out graphic photos of aborted fetuses. The protesters said they were demanding a display in the museum representing “Albuquerque’s genocide” in reference to abortions that have been performed in the city since the 1973 passage of Roe v. Wade.
The measure, if approved, would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks, unless “reasonable medical judgment” determines continuing the pregnancy poses a threat to the pregnant woman and would provide no exceptions in cases of rape, incest or severe fetal anomaly.
New Mexico Holocaust & Intolerance Museum President Randee Kaiser said she doesn't understand why the group chose the museum as a target for their tasteless demonstrations and adds that the protest should not have happened. “The protest is misguided, and it's offensive to make a case against abortion in America through this cynical view of what happened in the Holocaust and the memory of those who were killed,” Kaiser said. “No Christian who understands Jewish suffering should resort to inappropriate comparisons to the Holocaust to send a message that abortion is wrong.”
About two miles away from the museum demonstration, California resident and Survivors member Brianna Baxter, along with approximately 20 other out-of-state anti-abortion activists, stood outside Southwestern Women's Options on Lomas visually and vocally protesting the clinic and the laws that allow it to operate. The group came to Albuquerque to support a proposed ballot measure that would strictly regulate late-term abortions within city limits.
“We've come to Albuquerque to help the people of Albuquerque who are aware, who are pro-life, who are about protecting women and children,” Baxter said. “We’ve come to help them out, to bring our resources and people to help them get the word out.”
The migratory protesters arrived in town just days after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced an alliance between community and women's advocacy organizations, inlcuding Young Women United and Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, to kick off the Respect Albuquerque Women campaign. The campaign aims to defeat the proposed “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Ordinance” ballot measure that drew protesters to the area.
Albuquerque anti-abortion activists—supported by controversial anti-abortion group Operation Rescue—have turned in more than 27,000 signatures, far more than the approximately 12,000 needed to get the measure on the ballot.
The measure, if approved, would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks, unless “reasonable medical judgment” determines continuing the pregnancy poses a threat to the pregnant woman and would provide no exceptions in cases of rape, incest or severe fetal anomaly. Southwest Women’s Law Center Executive Director Pamelya Herndon said, “The out-of-state organizations behind this ballot measure are out of touch with New Mexico law.”
Young Women United Policy Director Micaela Cadena and other opponents of the proposed measure said the legislation is part of a national campaign designed to make it impossible for women in New Mexico and across the country to obtain safe and legal abortions. “The government has no business in these private and deeply personal decisions,” Cadena said. “Respecting New Mexico families means respecting the real-life decisions women face every day and trusting them to do what is best for themselves and their loved ones.”
But Father Stephen Imbarrato of Project Defending Life said the legislation is necessary because it will impose regulations and oversights designed to ensure patient safety. “There is no oversight. There is no supervision. There is nothing regulating abortion in the city of Albuquerque,” he said. According to Imbarrato, Albuquerque is the abortion capital of the Southwest, and the late-term abortion capital of the country, so it is only fitting that the voters have a say on the matter. “The people need to be made aware of this and vote in terms of whether or not they think [late-term abortion] is right and proper,” Imbarrato said.
However Cadena contends that voters should not be allowed to weigh in on such deeply personal matters concerning a woman and her health. “Every pregnancy is different, and a decision to end a pregnancy is deeply personal and often complex. We can't stand in a woman's shoes,” she said. “We must keep these personal decisions between a woman, her family and her physician.”
Albuquerque anti-abortion activists—supported by controversial anti-abortion group Operation Rescue—have turned in more than 27,000 signatures, far more than the approximately 12,000 needed to get the measure on the ballot. For Baxter and other traveling protesters, it may be some time before they see the potential fruits of their labor.
According to the City Charter, if the City Clerk concludes that supporters have collected the number of signatures needed to place the initiative on the ballot, the ordinance is then presented to the City Council. If the Council rejects the proposed ordinance for any reason, amends it or fails to take any action by a certain time, the proposal will be slated for a special election to vote on it within 90 days from the time they received it.
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