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Editorial: Prohibit protesting in county residential areas

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The debate over limits on late-term abortions in Albuquerque has gone down the wrong street.

Anti-abortion activists, who are pushing to ask city voters to approve an ordinance that would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy – except for when the life of the woman is at risk – took their protests into a North Valley neighborhood and to the house of a doctor they called an “abortionist.”

About 30 activists from “Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust,” based in California, showed up with signs and megaphones and hung around for several hours chanting things like “This doctor kills babies.” The doctor wasn’t home, but his wife and children were and, according to a colleague of the doctor, felt trapped and terrified. Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputies showed up but made no arrests.

Albuquerque is known as having a private clinic that does late-term abortions, one of a few that do.

The group said the protests were peaceful and the family was not in danger. However, a sign-waving, chanting crowd in front of one’s house would qualify as breaking the peace, if not creating a nuisance.

Such protests are not allowed at a residence within Albuquerque city limits – an ordinance prohibits picketing in front of a home unless the occupants give permission. However, the doctor’s house is in unincorporated Bernalillo County, where people can protest peacefully in the public right of way, although there are rules against disturbing the peace. Bernalillo County should seriously consider adopting a policy similar to the city’s, which still allows ample opportunity to exercise First Amendment rights.

Regardless of where someone stands on the abortion issue itself, standing in front of a personal residence to protest should not be allowed.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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