SANTA FE, N.M. (KAMR/KCIT) — New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez filed a petition in the state supreme court on Monday to block local ordinances that he said restrict abortion access.
Torrez filed the emergency petition for writ of mandamus and request for stay against Roosevelt and Lea Counties, as well as the cities of Clovis and Hobbs. The writ asks for immediate relief.
“It is simply inappropriate, unlawful, and unconstitutional for local governments to use their limited authority to try and create a patchwork of regulation, which would deny women access to essential health care services in their community,” Torrez said on Monday.
Clovis Mayor Mike Morris said the City Commission recently adopted an ordinance on abortion, which is not an outright prohibition but creates licensing and application processes for abortion providers in the city.
Morris said the ordinance establishes six requirements to apply for a license, including the name of the entity, the address, and location of the business, and other similar information.
“One of the requirements is, you know, a statement of compliance with specific federal law, which is on the books at the federal level, and prohibits the mailing and shipping or otherwise interstate transport of abortion paraphernalia and abortion medications,” Morris said.
According to the writ, that ordinance also declares aiding and abetting those actions to be unlawful.
The writ says Roosevelt County’s ordinance creates a licensing requirement that is similar but goes further by creating a private cause of action against abortion clinics.
Torrez said the ordinances unduly restrict the state’s constitutional right to an abortion and pose a question of the constitutional authority of local governments.
“Simply put, local communities are not empowered to regulate medical services,” said Torrez. “They are not empowered to regulate access to health care, and the actions they have engaged in infringes [sic] on the state’s ability and the legislature’s ability to control and regulate the most essential services that are available in any community.”
Morris said while the City of Clovis’s ordinance is now under scrutiny by the AG’s office and perhaps the state courts, many people still stand in opposition to abortion.
“Behind all of that is, the folks in Clovis and eastern New Mexico, wanting to have their values represented, those values that believe that life begins in the womb, and, you know, folks here want those values represented, and they don’t see that happening at the state level,” Morris said. “And so they’ve asked their local City Commission to be the voice for them.”
Morris continued, “I think it’s tough to govern on this issue, at the federal level and at the state level, and certainly here at the local level. And there’s a lot that that’s yet to be determined about, you know, who has the ability to regulate on this.”
Torrez said he filed the writ because the ordinances are extraordinary and unlawful.
“The Attorney General’s Office stands foursquare behind this effort to make sure that women in every corner of the state have access to reproductive health care, that they control these decisions, and that they won’t be interfered with by local governments who believe they shouldn’t be allowed to exercise that right,” Torrez added.
MyHighPlains.com has also reached out to Roosevelt County officials but has not heard back at this time.