They’ve compared themselves to survivors of the Holocaust and handed out postcards showing dismembered fetuses.
Anti-abortion activists are intensifying their campaign to restrict abortions in Albuquerque, even as it remains unclear when, or even whether, a proposed ballot initiative will go before voters.
And they are drawing swift reaction, with the Anti-Defamation League slamming the Holocaust comparison as “appallingly insensitive.”
The most dramatic twist came last week, when about 40 protesters visited the New Mexico Holocaust and Intolerance Museum to argue for inclusion of a panel about abortion in the United States. The panel would commemorate the “American Abortion Holocaust” since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, protesters said.
Anti-abortion activists also fanned out across neighborhoods near Downtown and the University of New Mexico last week to deliver postcards headlined “Killers Among Us,” with mug shots of three women, presumably abortion providers. The card also had a photo of a “15-week aborted baby,” complete with a dismembered arm and disfigured face.
The debate comes as activists push for a city ordinance that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Jeff White, founder of the advocacy group “Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust,” based in Riverside, Calif., had a hand in both protests. He was in Albuquerque last week to train young activists who arrived from all over the country.
The group’s position is that “any person born after 1973 is a survivor of the American Abortion Holocaust,” according to a news release.
White said he believes the protest tactics are effective and could change the minds of all but the most “pro-abortion” voters. But he said the Holocaust museum dismissed his argument out of hand.
“I said to them, ‘You are doing exactly what the German people did. How does it feel to willingly ignore the slaughter of almost 2 million children a year?’ ” White said in an interview Monday, recounting his visit to the museum.
Sam Sokolove, executive director of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico, said the language and images of the Holocaust have a specific meaning to Jewish people and the world.
The museum event was “profoundly insensitive to a Jewish community that is deeply committed to commemorating the memory of the victims of the events between 1939 and 1945, as well as caring for a significant population of survivors right here in Albuquerque,” Sokolove said.
The Albuquerque museum was founded by a survivor of Nazi Germany.
The Anti-Defamation League’s statement said the protest trivialized the Holocaust by creating a “moral equivalency between the Nazis’ systematic murder of millions of Jews and others during the Holocaust with abortions.”
Tara Shaver, a spokeswoman for the local effort to enact abortion restrictions in Albuquerque, defended the comparison. She said there have been 50 million abortions in America since 1973.
“Every holocaust or genocide is terrible, but there were far less Jewish people killed in that time than in abortion,” Shaver said.
About 6 million Jews were murdered in World War II, along with millions of others.
Supporters of the anti-abortion petition describe Albuquerque as an abortion leader. A private clinic near Downtown provides late-term abortions and is one of only four in the country of its kind.
One of the doctors there is a former colleague of a prominent Kansas physician who was murdered in 2009 by an anti-abortion fanatic.
Anti-abortion activists this summer gathered thousands of petition signatures aimed at triggering a city election on the proposed ordinance to limit abortions. They also have asked the City Council to adopt the proposal outright, without holding an election.
Shaver said supporters of the ordinance turned in about 27,000 signatures.
City Clerk Amy Bailey said her staff has checked a little over 10,000 of the signatures so far, 6,659 of which have been verified as belonging to valid city voters. Supporters need at least 12,091 valid signatures to trigger an election.
It’s not clear when the city would send the proposal to voters, if the requirement is met.
Shaver said the coming debate probably won’t include any more visits to the Holocaust museum. But the distribution of graphic photos is likely, she said.
“Killing innocent human beings is very offensive,” Shaver said, “so it only follows that the pictures will be offensive as well.”
The museum visit coincided with a training conference for “pro-life” activists, which was already planned. White said he doesn’t plan any similar protests in Albuquerque before an election is held.
Adriann Barboa, a spokeswoman for the “Respect ABQ Women” campaign fighting the ordinance, said the “extreme tactics that these anti-abortion groups are using in our communities show how out of touch they are with New Mexican values.
“The anti-abortion ballot measure they’re supporting is clearly an effort to shame and judge women without knowing her circumstances. We must respect Albuquerque women and ensure they maintain the right to make this deeply personal and often complex decision for themselves.”