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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Abortion measure draws activists’ attention

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By Arsenii Morin / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Dolores Huerta, center, discusses her opposition to the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Ordinance in the SUB Tuesday afternoon. The ordinance was placed on Albuquerque’s November 19 special elections ballot after a petition in support of the measure gathered the required number of signatures in September.

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A nationally known activist discussed a controversial Albuquerque abortion measure on campus Tuesday afternoon.

Dolores Huerta deemed the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Ordinance unacceptable in a speech at the Student Union Building.

In her speech, Huerta contested the anti-abortion ordinance, citing the right to an abortion as the “law of the land” because of the 1973 Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade. She also talked about the implications of not allowing women to have an abortion.
“If we, as women, cannot make the decision about our own bodies, how can we make a decision about our own future?” she said. “We have to really remind women of that because otherwise, we allow our futures to be controlled by someone else.”

The abortion ban was placed on a special election ballot after anti-abortion advocates gathered enough signatures in support of the measure. The measure aims to ban abortion for pregnancies beyond 20 weeks. Voters will decide on the fate of the ordinance in Albuquerque’s runoff elections on Nov. 19.

Huerta, a native New Mexican, earned national recognition for her work as an activist. She co-founded the National Farm Workers Association and serves on boards of multiple organizations, such as the Feminist Majority Foundation and Equality California. She has also won awards for her work, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which she received from President Barack Obama in 2012.

Huerta said voting against the initiative and defeating it in November will be cheaper for taxpayers in the long run.

“The Attorney General has said it’s unconstitutional and that it can’t be implemented,” she said. “But what does that mean? The city attorney general will have to go to the courts to keep it from being implemented. And that’s going to mean money, and that’s going to be taxpayers’ money that’s going to have to go to defending women’s rights.”

The runoff election will be nationally recognized because anti-abortion activists are starting to focus on elections that deal with abortion bans on a smaller scale, Huerta said.

“The eyes of the United States are going to be here on Albuquerque,” she said. “Some people may say it’s just a city election, but we know what the right wing is doing is they are focusing on local elections.”

Huerta said the ban would affect college students of both genders in the city.

“It definitely applies to college students because college students are in their reproductive years,” she said. “It affects not only women, but also men, because men are involved in the process of having children.”

Denicia Cadena, Director of Communications and Cultural Strategy for Young Women United, said the organization started working back in July to inform UNM students about the ordinance.

“We think students and young people are absolutely critical to defeating this measure,” she said. “We’re building efforts on campus with different student groups. We also will have organizers here talking to young people. We’re actually going to start hosting phone banks on campus.”

According to its website, Young Women United is “a community organizing project by and for young women of color in New Mexico,” that aims to “defend reproductive rights and build reproductive justice,” among other goals.

Cadena said the organization had also worked to acquire a more accessible voting location on campus.

“We talked with many students who think it’s absolutely critical to hold a polling place here, and we’re advocating for that as well,” she said. “We’ve done everything we can to get young people involved, and we want more young people to come.”

Students should go out to vote on the measure because the turnout for special elections is usually small, Huerta said. She encouraged students to go and participate in the election.

“I’m going to appeal to the UNM population to please participate and get involved in this campaign,” she said. “It is about them. It is about their futures.”