Last month, Albuquerque-based anti-abortion missionaries Bud and Tara Shaver and the University of New Mexico branch of Students for Life co-sponsored a screening of a documentary promoted as a way to “start a healthy conversation” about abortion. Someone chalked sidewalks outside the university campus venue with phrases like “Support unbiased research” and “Abortion does not cause breast cancer.” Tara told me she’d invited several pro-choice groups and was disappointed none of their members attended. What she didn’t mention was that the documentary itself had already been decried by medical experts as misleading, unfair and emotionally manipulative—a form of conspiracy thinking rendered in film. Two weeks after the screening, Tara told me she’d read an article I wrote in February about a Massachusetts project that in the 1990s helped bridge extreme rifts between local abortion activists. Tara thought another showing of the documentary could promote civil discourse about a severely polarizing issue.
If Curtis Boyd lives by one professional mantra, it’s this: Unless a woman has full autonomy over her body, she lacks full citizenship and lives instead as a second-class citizen. The controversial and celebrated abortion provider explains this thoughtfully on a hot, dry Fourth of July day in his Albuquerque office. A wiry man of 80 years, Boyd wears a gray surgical gown and says he’s working the holiday because the type of procedure that his clinic, Southwestern Women’s Options, is known for requires multiple days. The clinic sits near I-25 on Lomas Boulevard, a crowded east-west thoroughfare on the edge of downtown Albuquerque. Across the street looms a pink billboard paid for by the group Prolife Across America.
As the country’s highest court decides whether to uphold a controversial Texas law restricting abortion access, New Mexico advocates on both sides of the issue await the impact of the decision. The Texas law, known as HB2, requires all abortions be performed in hospital-like ambulatory surgical centers and all facilities that practice surgical abortions to have admitting privileges to a hospital located within 30 miles. Twenty-two of Texas’ 41 abortion clinics have closed since the state passed HB2 in 2013. Aside from El Paso, no abortion clinics currently operate in the entire western half of the country’s second-largest state. Because of this, many abortion rights advocates argue that HB2 has already impacted New Mexico and that a U.S. Supreme Court decision to keep the law could create a new precedent.
An anti-abortion group in Albuquerque filed an appeal to a campaign finance decision by the city that ended with a public reprimand and $1,000 fine earlier this month. Protest ABQ, a group that opposes abortion in Albuquerque, is challenging the City of Albuquerque’s decision in the Second Judicial District Court. At issue is a ruling by the city’s Board of Ethics that Protest ABQ violated a city statute by not properly registering as a measured finance committee, or MFC, before spending money in October city elections. During the recent municipal election, Protest ABQ group sent out mailers that purportedly depicted a woman who died from an abortion as well as an aborted fetus. The mailers said District 6 candidate, and now incoming councilor, Pat Davis* supported late term abortions and said that he is too extreme for Albuquerque.
At least one abortion rights group in New Mexico is calling for anti-abortion activists to take some responsibility for the shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood this weekend, while anti-abortion activists say they decry the violence. Joan Lamunyon Sanford, executive director of New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, told NM Political Report that Protest ABQ and other anti-abortion activists should take at least some responsibility for the attitude that she thinks led to the shooting. She said problems arise “when you use rhetoric that equates abortion with murder.”
Following news reports of the shooting in Colorado Springs, Protest ABQ released a statement condemning the attacks. “Our prayers go out to all those involved today in the senseless shooting at the Planned Parenthood located in Colorado Springs, Colorado,” the statement read. “We continue to pray for the law enforcement officers and all of those who were shot and for the safety of those currently responding to this ongoing situation.”
Tara Shaver, a cofounder of Protest ABQ, told NM Political Report her group will not change their activities based on what happened in Colorado.
The City of Albuquerque’s Board of Ethics ruled unanimously that an anti-abortion group broke city election rules when the group sent mailers in opposition of a City Council candidate. The board issued a $1,000 fine and a public reprimand. Protest ABQ sent fliers depicting graphic scenes purportedly from abortions in an attempt sway voters in District 6 from voting for Pat Davis, who won the race. Davis, the Executive Director of the political group ProgressNow New Mexico*, previously worked on a campaign against a ballot initiative in Albuquerque that would have banned late-term abortions. Alex Curtas, an employee of ProgressNow New Mexico, filed a complaint against Protest ABQ and it’s founders Bud and Tara Shaver arguing they should have registered as a Measure Finance Committee.
Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry is calling on an anti-abortion group to stop using blown-up graphic imagery in a Southeast Heights neighborhood. This week, Protest ABQ has been driving a truck with a large-scale picture of what’s purported to be an aborted fetus throughout the district where city council candidate Pat Davis* lives. Davis, who was part of a coalition group in 2013 that advocated against a ballot initiative that would have banned abortions in Albuquerque after 20 weeks of pregnancy, is running to replace Councilor Rey Garduño in the Democrat-leaning District 6. Berry, a Republican opposed to abortion rights, made the announcement in a Youtube video Friday. “As a pro-life mayor and a former state legislator, today I’m calling on Protest ABQ to stop taking large-scale images of abortions into neighborhoods where our children and our schoolkids are being exposed and traumatized,” Berry said in the video.
An anti-abortion group is getting attention for targeting an Albuquerque city council candidate with graphic imagery and one of their mailers is being investigated by the city’s ethics board. Protest ABQ, the group that sent the mailer, isn’t registered with the city as an Measure Finance Committee, which is required to be in order to send material opposing a political candidate. The mailer also didn’t list the address of Protest ABQ or the printer of the mailer, which city campaign rules require. Sent out last week, the mailer shows a picture of what’s purported to be a bloody fetus from a “late-term” abortion and a woman who the mailer says “died from LEGAL abortion.”
Yet the mailer’s attacks are saved for Pat Davis*, a District 6 city council candidate running to replace retiring Councilor Rey Garduño. “Davis champions this…” the mailer reads above the graphic photos.
Today, like last week, we’re looking at news coverage of controversial issues decades ago and today. Here’s another reminder that the more things change in politics, the more they stay the same. Local lawmakers have long been grappling with the highly charged issue of women’s access to abortion services, as evidenced by a look through news archives from the 1979 and 1981 sessions of the New Mexico Legislature. With one week left before the deadline in the 2015 legislative session to propose new bills for consideration, nothing regarding abortion policy has surfaced so far this year. During the Jan.
The New Mexico Legislature’s opening week coincides with the anniversary of the polarizing Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, and activists who oppose abortion say they hope this session will shift state laws in their favor. Formed after Albuquerque voters defeated a ballot measure to restrict abortion services in the city, Protest ABQ has plans to take advantage of the newly Republican-controlled House of Representatives by pressuring lawmakers into votes on statewide restrictions. As of press time, no abortion rollback measures have been proposed. That could change quickly if Father Stephen Imbarrato and the activists he helps coordinate have their way. Imbarrato is a Catholic priest whose accent and straight-up, conversational style harken back to his New York roots.