New Mexico Supreme Court weighs whether to strike down local abortion restrictions

Dec 12, 2023, 10:12 PM

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Supreme Court is weighing whether to strike down local abortion restrictions by conservative cities and counties at the request of the attorney general for the state where abortion laws are among the most liberal in the country.

Oral arguments were scheduled for Wednesday in Santa Fe. At least four state supreme courts are grappling with abortion litigation this week in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year to rescind the constitutional right to abortion.

In New Mexico’s Lea and Roosevelt counties and the cities of Hobbs and Clovis, where opposition to abortion runs deep, officials argue that local governments have the right to back federal abortion restrictions under a 19th century U.S. law that prohibits the shipping of abortion medication and supplies. They say the local abortion ordinances can’t be struck down until federal courts rule on the meaning of provision within the “anti-vice” law known as the Comstock Act.

Attorney General Raúl Torrez has argued that the recently enacted local laws violate state constitutional guarantees — including New Mexico’s equal rights amendment that prohibits discrimination based on sex or being pregnant.

Since the court case began, additional local ordinances have been adopted to restrict abortion near Albuquerque and along the state line with Texas.

New Mexico is among seven states that allow abortions up until birth, and it has become a major destination for people from other states with bans, especially Texas, who are seeking procedures.

A pregnant Texas woman whose fetus has a fatal condition left the state to get an abortion elsewhere before the state Supreme Court on Monday rejected her unprecedented challenge of one of the most restrictive bans in the U.S.

In 2021, the New Mexico Legislature repealed a dormant 1969 statute that outlawed most abortion procedures as felonies, ensuring access to abortion even after the U.S. Supreme Court rolled back guarantees last year.

Earlier this year, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill that overrides local ordinances aimed at limiting abortion access and enacted a shield law that protects abortion providers from investigations by other states.

On Tuesday, the Arizona Supreme Court grilled lawyers about a pre-statehood ban in 1864 on nearly all abortions and whether it has been limited or made moot by other statutes enacted over the past 50 years.

Arizona’s high court is reviewing a lower-court decision that said doctors couldn’t be charged for performing the procedure in the first 15 weeks of pregnancy because other, more recent laws have allowed them to provide abortions.

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New Mexico Supreme Court weighs whether to strike down local abortion restrictions