Anti-abortion groups gathered more than double the signatures necessary to force a Nov. 19 election on the issue in New Mexico's largest city in an attempt to shutter Southwestern Women's Options, one of the few clinics in the country offering abortions into the third trimester of pregnancy.
But some city councilors have sought to keep the question off the ballot, arguing it is not a local issue.
Attorney General Gary King weighed in on the matter in a letter Wednesday to Albuquerque City Council member Trudy Jones, who had asked King for a formal ruling.
King says only state officials can seek a formal opinion, but he issued the letter because "voters have the right to know and decide whether they want to bear the protracted expense of litigation over a measure that is unconstitutional and unenforceable."
"Additionally, recent federal court actions have struck down ordinances identical or similar to the proposed measure in Albuquerque," he said.
Albuquerque has become the latest flash point and the first municipal battleground in the abortion debate because of Southwestern Women's Options, run by Dr. Shelley Sella, a former colleague of slain Kansas abortion Dr. George Tiller and one of the few doctors in the country who still openly performs third-term abortions.
Tara Shaver, who helped organize the effort and who has ties to Operation Rescue out of Kansas, said abortion opponents took the issue to the city because the Democratic-controlled Legislature has failed to seriously consider requests for restrictions at the state level.
On Tuesday, the Bernalillo County Commission passed a ban on picketing private homes after protests were held outside the home of an Albuquerque doctor.