ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — In a closely watched, first-of-its kind municipal election, voters in New Mexico's largest city have soundly defeated a ban on late-term abortions.
Voters on Tuesday rejected the measure 55 percent to 45 percent following an emotional and graphic campaign that brought in national groups and hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising. The campaign included protests that compared abortion to the Holocaust and displayed pictures of aborted fetuses.
A coalition of groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and Planned Parenthood, called the results a huge victory for Albuquerque women and families.
"Albuquerque families sent a powerful message today_they do not want the government interfering in their private medical decisions," Micaela Cadena with the Respect ABQ Women campaign said in a statement. "Dangerous, unconstitutional laws like the one we rejected today have no place in Albuquerque, no place in New Mexico, no place anywhere in our nation."
NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue said, "We hope today's resounding defeat of this abortion ban sends a clear message to the extreme forces around the country now trying to impose their agenda on cities around this country. "
Activists on both sides of the issue said it was the first municipal ballot measure on the matter, which usually is debated at the state and federal level. Abortion opponents had hoped that a victory in Albuquerque would create momentum in their long-running fight to ban abortion.
Father Frank Pavone, national director of the New York-based Priests for Life, said Tuesday night that anti-abortion activists should not be discouraged.
"It is a brilliant strategy and we will see to it that this effort is introduced in other cities and states," he said in a statement. "The fact is, of course, that children have in fact been saved through this effort, simply because we have raised the issue of fetal pain, which does not even cross the minds of many abortionists."
Much of the campaign focused on the debate over when and whether fetuses can feel pain.
Albuquerque became the focus of the latest anti-abortion campaign because it is home to Southwestern Women's Options, one of just a handful of clinics in the country that perform late-term abortions. The proposal would have banned abortions after 20 weeks except to save the mother's life.
A leader of the initiative, Tara Shaver, said her group gathered signatures to put the issue to voters after failing to make headway in the Democrat-controlled Legislature.
Asked if other cities with late-term abortion clinics might be targeted in the future, Shaver said, "We are encouraging people to see what can be done at the city level. ... We are starting to get calls from people asking us how to do what we have done."
Police were stationed near polling places Tuesday as protesters from both sides tried to persuade voters who were lining up before the polls closed. One school reported an hour wait.
Michelle Halfacre said she cast her ballot in favor of the proposal, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks except to save the mother's life.
"I had an abortion when I was young, and I regret it," Halfacre said. "I don't believe in it."
But Jonathan Cottrell, a crisis hotline volunteer, said he voted against the proposal because he believes it marks the beginning of a "slippery slope to ban abortion in general."
"I feel that women have the right to choose what to do to their body," Cottrell said.
EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) - An activist wants a federal judge to order county or state officials to run East St. Louis elections, arguing that more than 5,200 people are illegally registered to vote in the struggling southwestern Illinois city.
The Belleville News-Democrat reports that Matthias Hawkins filed his lawsuit earlier this month against East St. Louis' Board of Election Commissioners.
That panel conducts all elections in the city and is responsible for purging the local voter rolls of residents who have died or moved away.
The commission's executive director, Kandrise Mosby, says the panel follows Illinois law and purges the voter rolls every two years, with that latest effort expected to be completed in a month.
No hearing date on Hawkins' lawsuit has been scheduled as of Tuesday.
Senate Democrats dropped the ban from the bill they plan to debate next month out of concern it could sink the whole package. But Obama says he's pushing for it.
In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama says Americans have spoken on gun control. He says they support the ban, plus limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines, school security funding and a crackdown on gun trafficking.
In the Republican address, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah says the Senate Democrats' budget raises taxes by $1.5 trillion without saving entitlements. He says Republicans want a balanced budget.
Several disabled renters testified Tuesday that the tax break of up to $750 annually allows them to pay medical bills, utilities and clothing. They pleaded with the Senate Appropriations Committee to keep the tax break.
But the committee voted to advance a bill that would do away with the tax credit and redirect the $57 million of savings to programs that serve seniors and the disabled. The plan is backed by Gov. Jay Nixon.
A commission Nixon appointed recommended ending the tax break for renters while continuing it for homeowners. The credit is intended offset property taxes.
Right now, prosecutions must start within 30 years after the victim's 18th birthday. The statute of limitations already does not apply to instances of forcible rape or forcible sodomy, attempted forcible rape or attempted forcible sodomy and kidnapping. The measure would allow prosecutions for child abuse at any time.
The House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee approved the legislation Monday.
Earlier this year, a state child sex abuse task force released a report urging lawmakers to eliminate the statute of limitations for first-degree statutory rape and first-degree statutory sodomy.
The State House Executive Committee voted 6-5 late Tuesday to move the measure to the floor, where passage is considered likely.
Advocates say the bill would help eliminate discrimination against children of homosexual couples. But opponents say this measure steps on people's religious freedoms. They argue lawmakers don't have the right to redefine marriage.
The bill was approved by the Senate on Valentine's Day. A House OK would send the matter to Governor Pat Quinn, who says he'll sign it.