By Sam Bregman, State Chairman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico
On Nov. 19th the citizens of Albuquerque affirmed their respect for New Mexico women and their families. New Mexicans came out in droves to oppose the proposed city ordinance – 55 percent of voters rejected the first-ever citywide attempt to ban abortions after 20 weeks.
Despite the efforts of outside extreme groups to intrude in such a personal decision, New Mexico voters upheld the belief that health care decisions should be between a woman, her family and her doctor. The rejection of the municipal abortion ban is a huge victory for women’s rights and health across the country, but it also speaks to broader sentiments nationwide and echoes the lessons out of the 2013 elections.
Across the country, Republicans are trying to pass bills and regulations that seek to take away or curb the power of women to make their own decisions. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introduced the most restrictive abortion ban in a generation; Republican governors are placing burdensome restrictions on health care facilities; and anti-choice groups are taking their fight to a local level.
This latest effort in New Mexico was the first in a national experiment to take this fight to a municipal level, hoping that a local approach would be more successful. If successful, the ban would have had implications that go beyond just the city of Albuquerque – it would have signaled to the anti-choice groups that the local approach works, and it would have closed one of the only clinics in the country that still performs third-trimester abortions.
The lead-up to the elections in Albuquerque was ugly and fought by outside groups who came in and tried to take over our city. They stood in front of supermarkets and schools, showing graphic, disturbing pictures that were meant to shock – to deter people from voting or to move people to vote for the ban. But their tactics failed.
While the elections in New Mexico are the latest victory for women’s health in what has been a very long battle; they’re also the latest example of how Americans react to ideological politics in our country. The New Mexico elections speak to a bigger attitude shift among voters nationwide.
More and more across the country we are seeing voters dismiss policies that infringe on private health care decisions and the Republican and tea party politicians that support them. We saw this in the Virginia election where Ken Cuccinelli lost the governor’s race, in part because of his record of pushing policies that diminish the rights of women and Latinos. And we saw it in New Mexico where voters rejected the abortion-ban city ordinance and elected Diane Gibson for City Council – defeating tea party-backed Janice Arnold Jones and giving Democrats a 5-4 majority. Also in 2013, Americans elected Bill De Blasio, who vowed to tackle inequality and became the first Democratic mayor of New York City in more than two decades; they knocked off the Republican incumbent and elected Rick Kriseman as mayor of St. Petersburg, Fla.; and for the first time in nearly 20 years they elected a Democrat, Amanda Murphy in a special election for Florida’s House District 36.
Last month the citizens of Albuquerque made it clear that New Mexicans trust women to make their own health care choices when faced with a difficult situation. They also demonstrated that just like voters nationwide, they are tired of extremist policies and hateful rhetoric. The Nov. 19th elections in New Mexico are yet another example of how voters all over the country want pragmatism and solutions that Republicans and the tea party can’t deliver.