ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Religious leaders are taking a front seat in Albuquerque’s debate of the proposed ban on abortions after 20 weeks that voters will decide at the polls on Nov. 19.
New Mexico’s top Catholic Church leader threw his support behind the proposed ordinance on Sunday and urged churchgoers to head to the polls to help pass the referendum.
Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan, who heads the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, celebrated a “pro-life” Mass in Albuquerque on Sunday and called on Catholics to help restrict abortion laws that he said currently attract women from around the country to Albuquerque to receive later-term abortions.
“I encourage all the people of Albuquerque to support the proposed ordinance to ban late-term abortion after the 20th week. These children are able to feel pain and suffer greatly when aborted,” Sheehan said in a statement.
Sheehan commended the effort of political organizers to collect sufficient petitions and get the proposed ordinance on a city ballot. Early voting has begun.
The archbishop said debate over the ordinance has helped educate the public about the issue.
The Catholic Church typically does not weigh in on election debates to endorse candidates, but the church routinely has advocated its stance on issues such as its strong opposition to standing abortion policies.
New Mexico political analyst Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc., said the advocacy from the Catholic Church could boost turnout at the polls.
“People will make up their own minds based on their own values, regardless of what their bishops or priests might say,” Sanderoff said. “However, many of the faithful could be inspired by the priests and bishops, and that could increase turnout.”
Meanwhile, a coalition of opposition groups organized against the proposed 20-week abortion ban known as “Respect ABQ Women” has highlighted a number of local religious leaders who oppose the ban.
Respect ABQ Women, which includes New Mexico affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the League of Women Voters, says at least 24 local religious leaders or faith groups have voiced opposition to the proposed abortion ban and endorsed the group’s effort to vote down the ordinance.
Several of the religious leaders represent local Presbyterian, Unitarian and Jewish congregations.
“Some of our strongest supporters are people of faith,” said Micah McCoy, a spokesman for Respect ABQ Women. “It’s important to recognize there is a range of beliefs on this issue, a diversity of beliefs. … Recognizing that people of faith are not a monolith when it comes to this issue is part of the reason we’ve had such a strong response from our faith community here in Albuquerque.”