AP

New Mexico AG seeks to codify abortion rights, nullify bans

Jan 23, 2023, 12:15 PM | Updated: 6:42 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

Israeli Embassy...

Associated Press

US airman dies after setting himself ablaze outside Israeli Embassy in Israel-Hamas war protest

An active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force has died after he set himself ablaze outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C.

48 minutes ago

Biden and Trump to visit Mexico border Thursday immigration...

Associated Press

Biden and Trump both plan trips to the Mexico border Thursday, dueling for advantage on immigration

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump will make dueling trips to the U.S-Mexico border on Thursday.

2 hours ago

Arizona and New York attorneys feud over extraditing suspect...

Associated Press

Why Alvin Bragg and Rachel Mitchell are fighting over extraditing suspect in New York hotel killing

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says she isn't into extraditing a suspect due to her lack of faith in Manhattan’s top prosecutor.

4 days ago

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018. A 34-year-old Color...

Associated Press

Colorado man dies after being bitten by pet Gila monster

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death by one of the desert lizards if the creature's venom turns out to have been the cause.

5 days ago

Police clear the area following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebr...

Associated Press

1 dead, many wounded after shooting at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

One person died after 22 people were hit by gunfire in a shooting at the end of the Kansas Chiefs' Super Bowl victory celebration Wednesday.

12 days ago

This image from House Television shows House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., banging the gavel after h...

Associated Press

GOP-led House impeaches Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas — by one vote — over border management

Having failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the first time, House Republicans are determined to try again Tuesday.

13 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

New Mexico AG seeks to codify abortion rights, nullify bans