ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) — A recent KRQE News 13-Emerson College poll indicates that abortion access is among the top issues driving voters to the polls this November. As New Mexico today has no laws restricting abortion access, the topic has become between the gubernatorial campaigns of Democratic incumbent Michelle Lujan Grisham and Republican challenger Mark Ronchetti.
In a newly release campaign ad, Ronchetti says voters should decide on the state’s abortion rules. So what’s the context? KRQE News 13 is looking into the candidates’ political advertisements over the next several months in the run-up to Election Day to help voters get the full story.
Where do candidates stand on abortion?
At the heart of Ronchetti’s recent ad are each candidate’s stances on abortion. Ronchetti starts: “I’ve made my position clear. End late-term abortion and protect access to health care,” he says in the ad.
That lines up with what his campaign website says. Online, Ronchetti’s campaign claims he is “pro-life” and will take steps to “end the barbaric practice of late-term abortions.”
So what exactly are “late-term” abortions? While the term generally signifies abortions that occur relatively late in the pregnancy timeline, there’s technically no universally agreed upon definition. Kaiser Family Foundation, a national nonprofit policy analysis and health journalism organization, says “late term” often refers to abortions at 21 weeks or later. But the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says “late term” has “no clinical or medical significance,” and the organization suggests doctors use more accurate language.
There is no definition in Ronchetti’s advertisement or on his campaign website as to how he defines “late term.” However, Ronchetti’s campaign website says he believes “permitting abortion up to 15 weeks and in cases involving rape, incest, and when a mother’s life is at risk is a position that most in New Mexico will support.”
In the ad, Ronchetti claims that the “Governor has a position on abortion too: abortion up to birth, no limits.” So what stance has Lujan Grisham taken?
Lujan Grisham’s campaign has focused on actions she took towards “protecting New Mexicans access to abortion and ensuring women and their families have the right to make their own choices about pregnancy and reproductive health.” So where does Ronchetti’s claim that she supports “no limits” abortion come from?
Ryan Sabel, the communications director for Ronchetti’s campaign points to an interview Lujan Grisham gave on CNN earlier this year. In the interview, Jake Tapper, the lead Washington anchor for CNN, asked Lujan Grisham: “In New Mexico, you are offering protections for any women or girls who traveled to your state to get an abortion and for doctors who perform them . . . what do you think would be the next step? . . . Where does this lead?”
Lujan Grisham’s response mentions access to abortion: “We don’t know where it leads, but we don’t want anything that’s gonna limit access or [have] a chilling effect on provider safety,” she said. “You can’t say that you’re a state — and we are — that guarantees safe, legal access to reproductive support, abortion, and abortion care services if providers feel like they don’t have the protections that they’re going to need.”
KRQE News 13 asked Lujan Grisham’s campaign if Lujan Grisham believes that abortions should be permitted up to birth. Delaney Corcoran, a spokesperson for her campaign, didn’t answer that question directly, but pointed to the same CNN video as an example of Lujan Grisham’s stance. In the interview, Lujan Grisham said, “I don’t believe government has any right to interfere and judge those decisions.”
Can voters actually decide state’s rules on abortion?
Ronchetti’s ad says “no politician should decide” the states rules on abortion. Looking into the camera, he adds: “You should.”
Ronchetti says that abortion is a topic that voters should decide in a special election. The ad doesn’t say what, exactly, a potential ballot question on the topic would ask. But presumably, the question would be a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution.
If that’s the case, state politicians would be required to have a say. On his website, Ronchetti says he will “seek a middle ground with [New Mexico’s] legislature that ends the practice of late-term abortion.” Amendments to the state constitution can only become a ballot question after being approved by the state’s legislators.
If an abortion-related ballot question did get approved by the legislature, it could potentially appear in a special election. Then, if approved by a simple majority of New Mexico voters, the measure could pass and amend the state’s constitution.
Editor’s Note: KRQE News 13 fact checking and contextualizing television ads used in the 2022 race for New Mexico’s Governor’s office. Ads reviewed are ads from the candidates, not from political action committees. The review period consists of ads either released, or running between September 5, 2022 and the November election. For more KRQE News 13 Fact Check articles, visit KRQE.com/elections