Abortion vote in Albuquerque

Published Nov. 20, 2013

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The nation's first citywide ballot initiative that would ban abortion after 20 weeks in Albuquerque was trailing in early returns Tuesday night.

Among 50,000 early and absentee ballots, about 56 percent opposed the proposal and 44 percent supported it. There was no way to know whether those returns would be representative of the full turnout in New Mexico's largest city, however.

Polls closed in Albuquerque at 7 p.m., but news reports showed that people were still waiting in line to cast ballots. About an hour later, officials said nearly 37,000 people had voted on Election Day, bringing the total turnout to more than 87,000. That's nearly a quarter of the city's approximately 360,000 registered voters.

The late-term abortion measure made Albuquerque the latest battlefield for the issue and a testing ground for whether abortion limits could be imposed on a local level.

The 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, Roe vs. Wade, has been interpreted to mean that abortions can be performed through 24 weeks of pregnancy.

But states have attempted to chip away at the ruling.

Albuquerque's initiative needed a majority to pass. It would have statewide impact because the only late-term abortion providers in the largely rural state are in Albuquerque.

To get the measure on the ballot, antiabortion groups gathered 27,000 signatures. Opponents, including state Attorney General Gary King, have said they will sue if the measure passes.