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Editorial: Legislature should vote on late-term abortion ban

Albuquerque city councilors allowed their constituents to vote on it. Valencia County commissioners cast their votes as well. It’s time New Mexico’s senators and representatives all put themselves on record in the same session when it comes to late-term abortions.

New Mexico’s three Roman Catholic bishops have made banning the abortions – performed at the Southwestern Women’s Options clinic in Albuquerque – a priority in the 2015 session. Similar legislation failed among Albuquerque voters in 2013 and Valencia County commissioners in 2014. Setting aside the serious moral question for a moment, such a complex issue should really be decided not in piecemeal fashion but at the state level.

Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington, has said he may sponsor a ban and supporters are debating whether legislation should prohibit abortions after 24 or 28 weeks of pregnancy. They should also discuss exemptions to protect women facing difficult medical decisions involving the health of their fetus and themselves. And they must ensure any wording is clear and on point; on the confusing Albuquerque ballot, a “yes” vote was a vote to ban the practice and a “no” vote was to continue it.

Southwestern Women’s Options is one of just four clinics in the nation that performs third-trimester abortions, or those after 27 weeks of pregnancy. Opponents argue that makes New Mexico a moral outlier, supporters that it makes New Mexico one of few places a woman whose pregnancy has gone horribly wrong can turn.

In 2013, 42 years after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade, a Gallup poll found a nation still deeply divided – 47 percent said they were pro-choice and 46 percent pro-life. But in the same poll, just 14 percent thought abortion should be legal in the last three months of pregnancy and 80 percent opposed it.

When it comes to late-term abortion, New Mexico’s lawmakers should put themselves on record as well.

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.