New Mexico AG seeks to codify abortion rights, nullify bans

Jan 22, 2023, 9:15 PM | Updated: Jan 23, 2023, 5:40 pm
FILE - Raúl Torrez speaks to Native American leaders during a candidates forum in Albuquerque, N.M...

FILE - Raúl Torrez speaks to Native American leaders during a candidates forum in Albuquerque, N.M., Oct. 14, 2022. New Mexico's top prosecutor on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023, asked the state Supreme Court to nullify abortion ordinances that local elected officials have passed in recent months in conservative reaches of the Democratic-led state. Attorney General Torrez urged the high court to intervene against ordinances that he said overstep local government authority to regulate health care access, and violate the New Mexico Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File)

(AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s top prosecutor on Monday asked the state Supreme Court to nullify abortion ordinances that local elected officials have passed in conservative reaches of the Democratic-led state.

Attorney General Raúl Torrez urged the court to intervene against recent ordinances he said overstep local government authority to regulate health care access, and violate state constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process.

At a news conference, Torrez said the ordinances are significant even in regions with no abortion clinics because they threaten to restrict access to reproductive health care in people’s homes. More than half of U.S. abortions are now done with pills rather than surgery.

“This is not Texas. Our State Constitution does not allow cities, counties or private citizens to restrict women’s reproductive rights,” Torrez said in a statement. “Today’s action sends a strong message that my office will use every available tool to swiftly and decisively uphold individual liberties against unconstitutional overreach.”

It’s unclear how soon the New Mexico Supreme Court might take up the issue. Torrez said he hopes his petition will inspire a quick response within weeks or months.

The filing targets Roosevelt and Lea counties, and the cities of Hobbs and Clovis — in eastern New Mexico near Texas, a state where most abortion procedures are banned.

Clovis and Lea County officials declined to comment Monday, citing pending litigation.

Hobbs officials said they have been transparent with their legal analysis through numerous public meetings and have fulfilled public records requests. They deny claims the ordinance bans abortions in Hobbs.

“The ordinance anticipates an abortion clinic will establish a location in Hobbs and sets minimum requisites for obtaining a business license to operate,” the city’s statement said.

In Roosevelt County, officials called the issue controversial and complex, saying they will respond through the process before the state Supreme Court.

Sentiments around abortion run deep in Roosevelt County, where commissioners adopted a resolution “in support of life” more than two years ago.

It states that “innocent human, including fetal life, must always be protected and that society must protect those who cannot protect themselves,” adding its residents would be encouraged to help those who are pregnant find health care.

Prosecutors say abortion ordinances approved in November by an all-male city council in Hobbs and in early January by Roosevelt County define “abortion clinic” in broad terms, encompassing any building beyond a hospital where an abortion is performed — or where an abortion-inducing drug is distributed or ingested.

Torrez warned Roosevelt County’s abortion ordinance gives private citizens the power to sue anyone suspected of violating the ordinance and pursue damages of up to $100,000 per violation.

“The threat of ruinous liability under the law operates to chill New Mexicans from exercising their right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy and health care providers from providing lawful medical services,” the attorney general wrote to the state Supreme Court.

In 2021, the Democrat-led Legislature passed a measure to repeal a dormant 1969 statute that outlawed most abortion procedures, ensuring access to abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she seeks legislation that would codify the right to an abortion statewide.

Lawmakers have already proposed measures to prohibit local government restrictions on abortion access — and call for more protections for doctors and patients.

In June, Lujan Grisham signed an executive order barring state cooperation with other states — including on any future arrest warrants — that might interfere with abortion access. The order also prohibits most New Mexico state employees from assisting other states in investigating or seeking sanctions against local abortion providers.

She also issued another executive order in August pledging $10 million to build a clinic for abortion and other pregnancy care in southern New Mexico.

The Clovis ordinance, approved in early January, is facing a petition challenge, but Mayor Mike Morris has said he thinks voters there would overwhelmingly favor keeping the ordinance if it were on the ballot.

Hobbs Mayor Sam Cobb said Monday that commissioners in his community heard hours of testimony and learned constituents were overwhelmingly in support of the ordinance.

“The City of Hobbs unequivocally supports women and women’s rights,” Cobbs said. “The future of our city, our county, and our state depends on the ability of us all to work together to find common ground — even on issues that stir emotion.”

In his filing, Torrez argues that the New Mexico Constitution provides broader protection of individual rights than the U.S. Constitution — and that the local ordinances violate New Mexicans’ inherent rights, liberty and privacy.

He also argued that the action by the city and county commissioners amount to overreach by attempting to legislate on a matter of statewide importance.

The attorney general asked the court to suspend the local abortion ordinances while deliberations continue.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Signage outside PayPal headquarters in San Jose, Calif., is pictured on March 10, 2015. PayP...
Associated Press

PayPal to cut 2,000 jobs in latest tech company cost-cutting

PayPal said Tuesday it will trim about 7% of its total workforce, or about 2,000 full-time workers
10 hours ago
This is a locator map for Afghanistan with its capital, Kabul. (AP Photo)...
Associated Press

Taliban asks Pakistan not to blame them for violence at home

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Afghanistan’s Taliban-appointed foreign minister Wednesday asked Pakistani authorities to look for the reasons behind militant violence in their country instead of blaming Afghanistan. The comments from Amir Khan Muttaqi came two days after Pakistani officials said the attackers who orchestrated Monday’s suicide bombing that killed 101 people in northwest Pakistan staged the […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

FedEx, Rivian, DraftKings join US companies cutting jobs

FedEx, Rivian Automotive, and DraftKings have joined a growing list of U.S. corporations announcing job cuts. FedEx sent an announcement to employees Wednesday informing them that the package delivery company is reducing the size of its officer and director team by more than 10% and consolidating some teams and functions. “Unfortunately, this was a necessary […]
1 day ago
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey speaks to reporters after taking the oath of office in Jeff...
Associated Press

20 attorneys general warn Walgreens, CVS over abortion pills

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Attorneys general in 20 conservative-led states warned CVS and Walgreens on Wednesday that they could face legal consequences if they sell abortion pills by mail in those states. A letter from Republican Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey to the nation’s largest pharmacy-dispensing companies was co-signed by 19 other attorneys general, warning […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Kosovo leader says ethnic Serb association isn’t a priority

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Kosovo’s prime minister said Wednesday that creating an association of the country’s five Serb-majority municipalities was not a priority for his Cabinet even though the U.S. has argued the issue is important to an eventual normalization of ties between Kosovo and Serbia. Prime Minister Albin Kurti repeated concerns that such an […]
1 day ago
FILE - Ships are docked offshore in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, Nov. 24, 2018. The...
Associated Press

US opens embassy in Solomon Islands to counter China

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The United States opened an embassy in the Solomon Islands on Thursday in its latest move to counter China’s push into the Pacific. The embassy is starting small, with a chargé d’affaires, a couple of State Department staff and a handful of local employees. The U.S. previously operated an embassy […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
New Mexico AG seeks to codify abortion rights, nullify bans