February 5, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Abortion debate quotes, then or now?

Senate Unit backs anti abortion bill 1979Today, 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. 21 Rally for Life, members of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops called for new restrictions on late-term procedures. Meanwhile, activists distributed a petition urging legislators to require that parents of minors seeking an abortion be notified.

It’s clear the debate has evolved little since 1979 when lawmakers (including Sen. John Pinto, D-Gallup, who still serves in the Senate) clashed over a measure that would require doctors to notify guardians or spouses of women seeking abortions. And in 1981 as today, members of religious groups carried emotional signs to the Capitol building urging action to limit abortion.

See if you can tell which quotes were lifted from 35-year-old newspaper pages and which were uttered recently. The answer key’s below.

  1. “Fully informed consent is necessary in all surgical procedures today; why not abortion? … Pro-life organizations do not have the federal funding as do others.”
  2. “I just want to make it clear that we want something to be done this session. If we’re not happy with the way things are going, then we will apply pressure.”
  3. “You’ve aborted my bill.”
  4. “In my area, on the eastern side of the state, it is a social disgrace to be pregnant and unwed. … What we are doing is sending girls to back-alley butchers and down to Juarez (to have abortions).”
  5. “As a father, I objected to this group terrifying young children innocently playing in their neighborhood on a Saturday morning, including my own 8-year-old son, with grotesque posters and billboards of dead ‎fetuses, and I think most parents would share my disgust.”
  6. “There’s really only a couple of senators that need to be convinced. The few that need to be convinced can be gently nudged.”
  7. “Abortion is a satanic rite.”



  1. Reader Lorraine Ford; Feb. 21, 1981: Letter to the Editor, Albuquerque Journal
  2. Tara Shaver, spokesperson for Protest ABQ, a group that opposes abortion; Jan, 21, 2014:  NMPolicalReport.com
  3. Rep. Silas Garcia, D-Santa Fe, re: Senate Public Affairs Committee amendments to the bill he sponsored that would require physicians to advise parents, guardians or spouses of a woman’s plan to have an abortion; Feb. 16, 1979: Albuquerque Journal
  4. Rep. Gary Robbins, R-Roosevelt, on a bill “requiring explicit prior consent of husbands or parents of a woman having an abortion;” March 12, 1979: Albuquerque Journal
  5. Jay McCleskey, political strategist to Gov. Susana Martinez; June 24, 2014: NMTelegram.com
  6. Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington, on the prospects of passing abortion restriction legislation through both chambers of the Legislature; Jan. 22 2015: NMPoliticalReport.com
  7. Sign at rally of abortion opponents outside the Roundhouse; Jan. 23, 1981: Albuquerque Journal


  • Margaret Wright

    Margaret Wright is a freelance writer and editor born and raised in Albuquerque, NM. She has also worked as a teacher, social worker and waitress. She was promoted from contributor to managing editor of Albuquerque’s alt.weekly Alibi before going on to co-found the New Mexico Compass (R.I.P.), a digital news and culture outlet with an emphasis on mentoring fledgling journalists.