Protecting the Unborn in Albuquerque

History is being made in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where citizens are considering an ordinance that would ban abortions after the unborn child reaches 20 weeks gestation. With Election Day fast approaching (November 19),  reports indicate that there is wide voter interest in the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Ordinance.” The interest this measure has raised is also indicated by the amount of money spent by the opposition group Respect ABQ Women which has reported raising around $585,000 from local and national sources including Planned Parenthood and the ACLU.

Although outspent by the opposition, supporters of the measure have been far from inactive. This grassroots effort by pro-life advocates obtained more than 27,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot and has received significant—and growing— local and national support. For example, the Susan B. Anthony List has a $50,000 television ad campaign in the media market in support of the measure.

The Albuquerque campaign is yet another point of reference focusing national attention on the issue of abortion of the unborn, particularly those who are able to feel and experience pain. Last month, Life Legal Defense Foundation joined the Bioethics Defense Fund in submitting an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to grant review in the case Horne v. Isaacson. The case involves Arizona’s law banning abortions after 20 weeks gestational age, except when necessary to avoid death or serious health risk to the mother. The law was challenged by late-term abortion providers and was eventually struck down by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year.

Opponents of late-term abortion bans generally argue that late-term abortions are justified in cases of fetal anomalies and defects (as argued in opposition to the Albuquerque ordinance). Disability rights groups, however, argue that aborting the disabled before birth is a form of discrimination. It not only destroys the lives of the unborn but devalues the lives of those who are living with physical and mental disabilities. If society accepts the argument that it is okay to destroy the weakest and most vulnerable among us because of their physical impairments—such as Down Syndrome—what message does that send to older children and adults who are living with these impairments? What will be the consequences of opening this Pandora’s box?

As argued in the Horne brief, the goal of preventing eugenic abortion is a legitimate governmental interest and will help to forestall acceptance of eugenic infanticide.

“Aborting an unborn child merely because of some physical or mental disability should not be a justification for late-term abortion,” comments Dana Cody, LLDF’s President and Executive Director. “Women and families faced with a diagnosis of fetal anomaly should receive love and support, not the despair of late-term abortion. We watch with interest what will transpire in Albuquerque next week.”