ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Albuquerque's decisive defeat of a ban on late-term abortions should send a strong message to policymakers around the country to stop meddling in personal medical decisions, abortion rights groups said Wednesday.
But those who succeeded in putting the proposal to a historic vote vowed their fight is not over.
"We poured our heart and soul into this, and we believe even though we lost the election we were able to win lots of hears to our side," Tara Shaver said. Shaver and her husband, Bud, moved to Albuquerque three years ago with the sole focus of shuttering Southwestern Women's Options, one of a handful of clinics in the country that still do late-term abortions.
Activists on both sides say it was the first municipal election on the issue. And despite the defeat, it likely won't be the last.
"We are going to capitalize on this momentum, and we are going to keep coming back," Shaver said. "This is literally a battle between life and death."
Shaver said she has gotten a number of inquiries from around the country since her group secured the necessary signatures to put the proposed ban to city voters.
And the head of a national Catholic anti-abortion group, New York-based Priests for Life, vowed to push to see the effort grow.
"It is a brilliant strategy, and we will see to it that this effort is introduced in other cities and states," the Rev. Frank Pavone said. "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."
Albuquerque voters Tuesday rejected the ban 55 percent to 45 percent in the special election that brought out more voters than last month's mayoral contest. It also brought in national groups who spent hundreds of thousands dollars on advertising.
"Yesterday's defeat of the first-ever municipal abortion ban in the city of Albuquerque 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," Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement.
Albuquerque pollster Brian Sanderoff credited the win to smart campaigning and fundraising by opponents, as well as an emerging base of progressive voters in New Mexico's largest city.
"I think part of it's the fact that as Albuquerque grows it's becoming a true urban city, and its voting patterns reflect that," he said. "And so Albuquerque over time is voting more Democratic, more liberal."
Sanderoff said he believed one reason Albuquerque was targeted for the first-of-its kind election was because of its high population of Hispanics, who tend to vote conservative on social issues like abortion.
"Here, the Hispanic vote split," he said. "The rest becomes history."