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Albuquerque mayoral candidates split on abortion

Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque’s City Hall is rarely a battleground for debates over abortion and national politics.

But a petition drive to get an ordinance restricting abortion on the Oct. 8 ballot is forcing Albuquerque’s mayoral candidates to weigh in. The proposal is aimed at banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Paul Heh

Paul Heh

Paul Heh and incumbent Richard Berry say they would vote in favor of the ordinance if it ends up on the ballot. Pete Dinelli said he would oppose it.

Anti-abortion activists gathered nearly 27,000 petition signatures this summer with the hope of getting the ordinance before voters this fall. The city clerk’s office is still determining whether enough of the signatures are valid – they need 12,091 to force an

The mayor’s re-election campaign said Berry supports the proposal.

“If advocates for any issue meet the criteria of the City Charter, they have earned the right to send the issue to the voters,” Berry said in a statement released by his campaign. “While the constitutionality and enforceability of this initiative if passed by the voters will be up to a judge not the Mayor or the city council, personally I am opposed to late term abortion and will vote accordingly if the City Council puts it on the ballot.”

 Pete Dinelli

Pete Dinelli

Asked to clarify, the Berry campaign confirmed that Berry would vote in favor of the proposed ordinance if it’s on the ballot.

Berry is a Republican in his first term as mayor.

Dinelli, a Democrat and former chief public safety officer at City Hall, said he “strongly” opposes the abortion proposal. The topic should remain a private matter between a woman and her doctor, family and religion, he said.

“My reading of the proposal is it’s clearly unconstitutional and unenforceable as written,” Dinelli said, “and it does interfere with a woman’s right to choose.”

The proposed ordinance would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with narrow exceptions for cases in which the pregnant woman’s life is in danger.

Heh, a Republican and retired police sergeant, came out strongly in favor of the proposal on Tuesday. He said he’d vote “yes” if the proposal makes the ballot.

Mayor Richard Berry

Mayor Richard Berry

“I support the democracy of the ‘Unborn Child Protection’ ballot initiative,” Heh said in a written statement. “This initiative does not violate a woman’s right to decide or choose; however, it does limit the time to twenty weeks. An abortion after twenty weeks is simply barbaric.”

City staffers continue to work on checking to see how many of the petition signatures are from valid registered voters in Albuquerque.

Under the City Charter, if the clerk certifies that supporters have met the required number of signatures, the ordinance must be proposed to the City Council. If the council rejects the ordinance, amends it or fails to act within a certain period of time, the proposal must be scheduled for an election within 90 days, according to the charter.

Albuquerque’s regular municipal election is scheduled for Oct. 8, when the mayor’s office and six City Council seats are on the ballot.

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