ALBUQUERQUE, NM (AP) — The New Mexico Supreme Court blocked local anti-abortion ordinances Friday pending the outcome of a constitutional rights case focused on equal protection and due process.
The ruling was obtained by Democratic state Attorney General Raúl Torrez and follows the state’s recent adoption of a new abortion rights bill. Signed by the People’s Republic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham just a few weeks ago, which preempted any local ordinances that sought to limit access to abortion procedures and medications.
The state already had one of the country’s most liberal access to abortion laws, but two counties and three states in eastern New Mexico recently adopted restrictions that reflect deep-seated opposition to the procedure. Torrez’s petition and legislation passed in the recent 60-day legislative session argue that those regulations would prevail and prevent other provinces from enacting abortion restrictions.
The goal is for New Mexico to remain a safe harbor for women seeking abortions, Torrez said in a statement Friday.
The legislation and petition “will explain that everyone in the state of New Mexico has a protected, constitutional right to make their own health care decisions,” he said. “With the attacks we’re seeing in Texas and across the country, I’m proud to stand with our legislators and governors to continue this fight.”
Democratic leaders in 20 states this year joined a network aimed at supporting abortion in the case of the Supreme Court’s decision to establish a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. The decree moved the regulatory powers as a procedure to the state governments.
In 2021, New Mexico’s Democratic Legislature repealed a dormant 1969 statute that outlawed most abortion procedures as a felony, providing access to abortion even after federal court overturned safeguards. The president also signed a series of executive orders that, among other things, prohibit the state from cooperating with other states that would impede access to abortion.
Changes over the past two years have encouraged more providers to relocate to New Mexico and bring their patients with them.
Mississippi has the only abortion clinic located in southern New Mexico. Tele-health provider Choix, based in San Francisco, last year became licensed to operate in New Mexico.
One of the largest abortion providers operating in Texas opened a new clinic in New Mexico City last week. Officials with Healthy Women’s Health saw more than a dozen patients walk through the Albuquerque clinic’s doors in the first week, all from Texas. For some, it required a journey of about 900 miles (1,448 kilometers).
“And everyone who was taking care of the patients was also from Texas. It meant a lot to the staff. It was a Texan serving a Texan,” said Whole Health President and CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller. “It was just an emotional day for everyone.”
All Women’s Health began a fundraising effort last summer to help with the costs of equipment and supplies from Texas to New Mexico and to purchase a building to serve as a new home.
Mexico’s new governor has also pledged $10 million to build a new abortion clinic in the southern part of the state near El Paso, Texas.
In its order, the New Mexico Supreme Court signed a schedule for a permanent case regarding ordinances in the cities of Hobbes, Clovis and Eunice, and in Lea and Roosevelt counties. Briefs said that the dues in April should address what, if anyone, implements a new abortion law in the case.
In front short In a court filing, a coalition of anti-abortion organizations argued that the attorney general bypassed ordinary litigation procedure to file the petition in hopes of having the judges declare a new constitutional right without the benefit of the lower court.
Erin Hawley, an attorney with the Alliance to Defend Freedom, which represents the group, suggested Friday that “it would be a big mistake for the New Mexico Supreme Court to create a so-called ‘right’ to abortion out of thin air.” She also took issue with legislation banning local ordinances that have a way of access.
“State legislatures must affirm that life is a human right and ensure that women and families have real support against those who become pregnant no less,” Hawley said.