Activists Erect Billboards Comparing Abortion Bans to Rape Across New Mexico, Saying Both Are About 'Power And Control'

Billboards comparing abortion bans to rape have gone up across New Mexico, asking drivers to consider the role that "power and control" might play in laws barring access to abortion.

"Rape is about power and control. So are abortion bans. Keep abortions safe and legal," read the billboards. They were erected by ProgressNow New Mexico, a reform group based in the southwestern state.

Placed along the I-25 between Sante Fe and Albuquerque, the signs are meant to shock their viewers by delivering a strong message.

"For any one of us who has been a survivor of rape, molestation, sexual harassment or domestic violence, we have been told over and over that these forms of abuse take place because the abuser wants to assert power and control over our bodies," states ProgressNow New Mexico's Communications Director Marianna Anaya.

What does that have to do with anti-abortion legislation? "Across the United States, there is an epidemic of politicians, governments and extremists who are trying to assert power and control over our bodies by means of banning abortion—a personal decision that should always remain between a person and their doctor," Anaya asserts.

"By taking away our personal decision-making abilities, we are being stripped of respect, and being stripped of autonomy," she says. "Anti-abortion extremists spend millions of dollars to shame, pressure, punish and harass us—proving that their interest is not about morals or religion."

Ultimately, the communications director says: "It's about power and control."

ProgressNow New Mexico has erected signs comparing rape and abortion bans in the fight to keep abortion safe and legal. ProgressNow New Mexico

While the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade protects the right to access to abortion in the U.S., many fear that the decision could soon be overturned, now that the court has a five-justice conservative majority.

If Roe were to be overturned, Anaya warns, an unenforced ban that predates the ruling and has lied dormant in New Mexico due to the protections afforded under the Supreme Court decision, could be enforced.

"The old abortion ban requires that all women—at any stage of pregnancy—beg for permission to have an abortion in front of a panel of strangers, including survivors of rape and incest," Anaya said. "If this panel of strangers decided a woman did not deserve an abortion, it would result in a forced pregnancy."

While the right to undergo an abortion is protected under Roe, access to the procedure is limited in New Mexico, compared to other states.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, which collects state-level data on publicly funded family planning services, 48 percent of women in New Mexico live in counties with no abortion clinics.

With Roe at risk, ProgressNow New Mexico has sought to ramp up efforts to demand protections for access to abortion across the state.

A spokesperson for the billboard initiative told Newsweek that the campaign was already gaining nationwide traction on social media, with more than 900,000 interactions on Facebook and Twitter as of Tuesday.

Newsweek has contacted ProgressNow New Mexico for further comment.