By Daniel Montano, Managing Editor | Photo from PROLIFEWITNESS.ORG
President of Students for Life UNM, Samantha Serrano, said one thing is at stake with the proposed ballot measure: the lives of children.
Serrano believes that life begins at conception, even if the child is not able to survive outside of the womb at that time, and that abortion ends a human life, she said.
“If we do not win this election, babies are dying,” she said.
The term that is used when a fetus is capable to live outside the womb is “viable” and for Serrano, the magic number is 20 weeks old, she said.
The conceptual basis of viability provides a frame of reference for the larger philosophical question of when a fetus becomes a person, and for those in favor of this ballot measure, it is undisputable that a fetus is a living human being by five months, Serrano said.
Although the number is up for debate and has been said to be anything from 20 to 28 weeks, 20 weeks is the time when Serrano said a pre-born human can begin to feel pain.
For supporters of the ballot measure, knowing a human being can feel pain, subjecting that human to pain and ending its life is inherently morally wrong, Serrano said.
“By allowing for abortion in the later terms of pregnancy, we are basically saying we acknowledge this is a human being, we just don’t care,” she said.
Serrano said she is also a part of Project Defending Life, a local pro-life ministry headed by Father Stephen Imbarrato.
Imbarrato believes that in addition to saving the lives of children, he is working for the health and well-being of the women in question, he said.
“Abortions are not safe. They’re potential risks to women, especially when you start getting into late-term abortion,” he said.
Imbarrato said he is pushing for reform to give women “real options” when it comes to pregnancy.
As part of his ministry, Imbarrato provides counseling services to women with unexpected pregnancies, providing housing assistance, access to pre-natal care, such as ultrasounds, and assistance receiving social services, he said.
“Women have abortions, not because of choice, but really because they feel they have no choice. They’re in a desperate situation,” he said.
For Imbarrato, the question should not be whether or not one should have access to abortions, but why a woman would feel as if she needs to get an abortion in the first place, he said.
Being a catholic ministry, Project Defending Life provides these services under the guidance of the church, counseling women on the teachings of the Bible, he said.
Serrano however, does not take that approach with her outreach efforts, she said.
She believes it is important to include people of all faiths in her discussions, so she approaches the topic from an academic perspective, she said.
“We may not agree about religious beliefs, but we can find common ground in biology and philosophy,” she said.
With this approach, Serrano said she has found success when discussing late-term abortion procedures, which account for about 1.5 percent of all abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a sexual and reproductive health non-profit organization.
However, her and Imbarrato’s goal is to completely ban all abortion, regardless of how far along the pregnancy is, she said.
“From a pro-life point of view, I think that this is a stepping stone toward ending abortion all-together, and that is the ultimate hope,” she said.
For Serrano, there is no difference between having an abortion at two weeks or five months, and killing a child two years into life, she said.
She said she believes the motivation is the same.
In response to the argument that abortion is a private medical and moral decision, and that there should not be laws regulating such decisions, Serrano thinks that certain private decisions do require legal regulation, she said.
Just because a woman has a right to make private decisions, does not mean she will always make the right decision, both morally and legally, she said.
“Women can make private choices to prostitute themselves; the law says that’s wrong. Women can choose to drink alcohol while pregnant, but the law says that’s wrong,” she said.
Albuquerque has become a battleground state in the legal abortion debate in part because of the Southwest Women’s Options clinic, one of only a handful of clinics nationwide that will provide abortion services throughout the pregnancy, which has led supporters of the ballot measure to dub Albuquerque “the late-term abortion capitol of the United States,” Imbarrato said.
The most recent available data, from 2009, shows 5 percent of all abortions in New Mexico are performed on women who come from out of state, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“People come here from all over the country, and other places outside of the country, come here, to Albuquerque, to get an abortion,” Imbarrato said.