Yesterday, a proposed ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy was rejected by voters of Albuquerque. We're not talking a polite "it's not you, it's me" kind of rejection. We're talking changing your phone number-level rejection. We're talking Moving To Another City Without Telling You kind of rejection. Here's why that's huge.
First, a little background: This year, for the first time, anti-choice groups attempted to push an abortion ban by presenting it to voters of a city in a referendum. They picked the perfect issue — late-term abortion bans, which polls show enjoy widespread support. They picked the perfect city — Albuquerque, a major city with a heavily-Latino population they surmised would be in-the-bag against choice despite their record of progressive voting. As luck (or fuckery) would have it, voting stations were placed conveniently near megachurches, and conveniently far from the University. Everything was in place for a law that would have effectively ended mid-term abortions in New Mexico.
But things didn't go as planned.
The ban itself was a shitpile (legal term for "pile of shit"). It banned all abortions after 20 weeks (which has polled well), with no exception for rape or incest (which has polled... poorly), based on the dubious and oft-repeated claim that at 20 weeks' gestation, a fetus can feel pain (jury's still out on whether women can feel pain, I guess). Late-term abortion bans are also based on the dubious, not-often-said-aloud-by-anti-choice-groups claim that women are untrustworthy and therefore liable to go skipping on into the abortion clinic for a complicated, painful, and expensive procedure halfway through pregnancy just for funsies or stupid and likely to be convinced by an evil abortionist hiding in the bushes that they should terminate their pregnancy because everyone knows that abortion is full of money. In fact, abortions at or later than 20 weeks are rare and comprise a very small percentage of all abortions. According to Guttmacher, women who have abortions in the second trimester are more likely to be victims of rape or sexual abuse, teenagers, below the poverty line, or pregnant with a fetus that has a serious birth defect.
Second, anti-choice forces from around the country vastly overestimated the effectiveness of their tactics, which apparently consisted of standing around outside of places where Latinos might hang out waving signs containing giant images of dismembered human fetuses. The Washington Post described it as,
...an emotional and graphic campaign that brought in national groups and hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising. The campaign included protests that compared abortion to the Holocaust and displayed pictures of aborted fetuses.
Huh! People don't respond well to that tactic? YOU DON'T SAY. Here's more on anti-choice groups snatching defeat from the jaws of victory with their insistence on acting insane, from the Times,
Here, the groups used churches and neighborhood organizations to drum up support among voters. On Tuesday, a group prayed outside Bibles Plus, a Christian bookstore, and carried signs with pictures of aborted fetuses outside the Albuquerque Museum, a polling site, startling children on a field trip.
"Yes, we are radical — radical in our love, in our protecting," said Grace Lardizabal, pastor at Transformation Ministries, a Christian nondenominational church in Albuquerque, holding her daughter, 6, outside the bookstore. "We believe it's our mission to save lives."
Lesson: no one wants to sit next to the crazy person on the bus. Or vote for the ballot measure supported by the person waving pictures of medical procedures at children. Graphic medical imagery, rhetorical tactic-wise, is ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst. Imagine proponents of regular colonoscopies tried to get people to get themselves checked by waving around giant images of malignant polyps. Guys. Come on.
Corollary lesson: progressive Latino voters aren't going to shift allegiances in order to support laws that are ultimately cruel to women, and late term abortion won't be the wedge issue conservatives dreamed it would be.
Abortion foes are undaunted, though, and have vowed to continue to introduce anti-choice referendums to cities and municipalities throughout the country. Goody.