The latest frontline in the U.S. abortion battle is in the distant prairies in New Mexico, where two conservative towns are planning to ban the medical procedure while it remains legally legal within the State following Roe v. Wade was dismissed.
There are two towns nearby. Clovis and Hobbs don’t even have abortion centers, but they are strategically according to activists and doctors because they’re near an area bordering Texas and are located further east. Texas was among the first states to implement the complete prohibition on abortion, and doctors are likely to spend the rest of their lives in prison.
It is the New Mexican abortion provider within the shortest distance for many Texas women is located in Albuquerque approximately 4 hours from Clovis and about five hours from Hobbs.
We have attended recent city commissions sessions in Clovis and Hobbs where anti-abortion laws were discussed. We also been informed by one of the biggest independent abortion providers within the United States that the legal actions have led the company to consider establishing an abortion clinic in the eastern region of New Mexico.
Pro-life activists are hoping that other cities can follow Clovis as well as Hobbs to dramatically reduce the number of abortions still are being performed, particularly in other states that are controlled by Democrats. The activists who are in New Mexico fighting for women’s right to safe abortions worry that the new battle will be coming up in these “blue” states.
Clovis and Hobbs are likely to be the subject of legal challenges, however similar laws have been able to withstand lawsuits in Texas. The voters of Lubbock, Texas, which is close to close to the New Mexico border, outlawed abortions in 2021. Planned Parenthood was unsuccessful in its fight against law enforcement officials in the Lubbock legislation, while their facility in this Texas town stopped offering abortions long prior to the time Roe ended.
“Anti-abortion forces have realized that they no longer have to be concerned about Texas as well as Mississippi as well as Alabama and Louisiana no longer, they’re beginning to look at what I call the “new frontier'” stated Amy Hagstrom Miller, the chief executive officer of Whole Woman’s Health, one of the country’s biggest independent providers of abortion services.
CITY BY CITY
The town-level plan is the idea of an Christian pastor and an attorney who was conservative and worked with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who was a vocal critic of Roe.
Mark Lee Dickson, a pastor and the head of the Right to Life of East Texas was the founder of the “sanctuary cities for the unborn” movement in the year 2019. Then, in New Mexico, Dickson worked with an attorney who was conservative Jonathan Mitchell, who was the architect behind Texas 2021’s “heartbeat” abortion law.
The surge of women seeking abortions from Texas and news that a clinic may be opened in their cities is what inspired pastors in Clovis as well as Hobbs to approach Dickson.
“We are aware that abortion clinics are looking to establish their clinics in these cities, which are only a few minutes of border crossings with Texas frontier,” Dickson said after the October. a 17 council meeting held in Hobbs approved the ordinance in Hobbs. “They would like to draw the maximum number of Texas residents as they can for abortions here right in New Mexico.”
Both Clovis as well as Hobbs are situated in a more conservative part of the state, compared to the more liberal regions around Albuquerque or Santa Fe. People here are furious in the face of being ruled by politicians who don’t have the same views on many topics, including environmental policies that impact the region’s huge petroleum industry, the pandemic ban and the issue of abortion.
“We hope that this sends a message to the legislative body that there exist pro-life cities in the world and we would like to make our own decisions on this matter,” Clovis Mayor Mike Morris stated on October. 13 when the town approved the proposed ban.
However, Laura Wight, a 45-year-old Clovis citizen who was instrumental in establishing Eastern New Mexico Rising, the local progressive group that is opposed to the planned abortion law, claimed that the ordinance was a slap on women’s rights in the area as well as those from Texas who might seek safe abortions in the eastern region of New Mexico.
Wight stated that she’s approached the ACLU and said that her group will be attending in November. 3. Clovis City Commission meeting at which the final vote will be scheduled for the measure. She hopes that the measure won’t pass, but believes that it’s likely to pass.
“Many states are at risk of being in similar situations,” Wight said. “That’s the point. This is why the reversal of Roe v. Wade and leaving that decision to the states is a huge deal. Since when the decision is left for the state to decide, it’s left at the discretion of whoever’s in control for the particular state at that moment or, in this case, that’s the local authority.”
The possibility of thousands of Texas women who want to have abortions traveling to New Mexico in part led New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to allocate $10 million for a new reproductive health clinic in the region that is Las Cruces, located 210 miles (340 km) to the west of Hobbs.
Attorney General of New Mexico Hector Balderas told that he was worried about changes that occurred in Clovis as well as Hobbs and directed his staff to “evaluate the latest activity because of that city’s obligation under law to ensure the right to health care for women and their families.”
Following when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and its federal protections for abortion during June Hagstrom Miller, the chief executive officer for Whole Woman’s Health, was ordered to close the clinics for abortions run by the group in Texas.
Hagstrom Miller has said that she plans to start clinics throughout New Mexico and is considering opening a clinic located in Clovis or Hobbs in large part to accommodate women who are arriving from Texas. However, the prospect of “sanctuary” ordinances has put the doctor pause regarding operating in the eastern region of New Mexico.
“In the post-Dobbs age in which anti-abortion activists are empowered, I’d like to make sure that we’re in a situation where patients are protected, and our doctors and staff are secure,” she said.
A LONG TERM, NEW USE
The laws that Clovis as well as Hobbs are scheduled to be passed. depend on federal law dating back to 1940 that prohibits the use of the U.S. Postal Service or a private company like FedEx to deliver or mail any item “designed and modified or intended to cause abortion.” The cities will demand that abortion clinics follow the federal law for an approval from the city to operate.
“We aren’t sure that every abortion facility would agree to follow this. If a clinic were to comply with federal law, we doubt they’d be able to conduct abortions, due to the lack of supplies,” said Dickson, the anti-abortion advocate from Texas.
Michael Seibel, an Albuquerque-based anti-abortion lawyer who consulted with Dickson and Mitchell on the Clovis and Hobbs proposed ordinances, said he hopes the model will be followed in Democratic-controlled states across the country.
It was the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June reversing the important 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling which recognized women’s constitutional rights to choose to abort. This gave states the authority to prohibit abortion. Seibel proposes going beyond state-by-state to locality-by-locality.
“New Mexico, as well as a number of others blue states may be pro-life states, but they are dominating by one or two major city centers,” Seibel said, speaking in Hobbs following the city commission approved its initial decision to approve”sanctuary ordinance “sanctuary” law on October. 17. “The majority of villages and towns across blue states may actually be pro-life.”
Surveys conducted by Pew Research Center has shown that in the past, while most people believe that the legality of abortion is at the very least certain circumstances, only 45% of the adults living in New Mexico believe that abortion should be “illegal in all/most instances.”
Ellie Rushforth, an attorney working for The American Civil Liberties Union in Albuquerque said that the proposed ordinances are in violation of the constitution of the state. She wrote to Clovis City Commission members, saying adopting the ordinance would “expose Clovis and the residents to a potential liability of significant magnitude.”
Rushforth stated that the ACLU was ready to protect the rights of women to access reproductive health care.
“They’re making use of our communities as a test ground for legal theories that are ambiguous,” she said.