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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Protesters target UNMH CEO's neighborhood

news@dailylobo.com

@ArdeeTheJourno

LOS RANCHOS, N.M. – Anti-abortion protesters swarmed the neighborhood in which the CEO of UNM Hospital lives to demand the closure of the University’s Center for Reproductive Health.

About 15 people on Saturday morning marched around the residential area near Eakes Court NW to call on UNMH CEO Steve McKernan to close down the center, which offers abortions for pregnancies of up to 22 weeks.

Protest ABQ, an anti-abortion ministry that was launched earlier this month, organized the protest.

Tara Shaver, spokeswoman for the ministry, said her organization does not aim to single out McKernan. She said the protest aims to educate residents of the area about abortions in the city and in the University.

“We are in his neighborhood to not call him out by name, but to let people know that UNM is helping to keep abortion in our city,” she said. “These are his doctors who are performing abortions through the UNM Health System.”

McKernan was unable to return calls from the Daily Lobo over the weekend.

Members of the ministry carried placards with pictures of dead fetuses while marching silently around the neighborhood. The organization’s truck, embellished with similar images, also drove around the streets slowly.

Aside from Shaver, none of the other protesters agreed to identify themselves to the Lobo.

At least two residents of the neighborhood confronted the organization face-to-face and demanded that they leave the area. When the protesters ignored the residents’ demands and continued the march, at least four officers from the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office arrived to stop the protest.

A city ordinance that passed the County Commission in October prohibits picketing outside of a person’s private residence in Bernalillo County. The ban passed to address violent anti-abortion protests against doctors who perform the procedure earlier last year.

Shaver said she was not surprised with the residents’ negative reactions to Saturday’s protest.

“A lot of times, people just want to ignore abortion, the killing of babies, as if it doesn’t exist,” she said. “When we bring it out to the public eye, people have to respond one way or another … Some people just lash out at us as if we were the enemy just because we’re the messenger letting people see the truth.”