City of Eunice sues governor and attorney general over abortion rule

By: - April 18, 2023 4:39 am

A screenshot from the press conference in which activist Mark Lee Dickson joined local officials from Eunice.(Courtesy Photo)

Officials from the city of Eunice announced Monday they are suing Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Attorney General Raúl Torrez, after the city passed an ordinance restricting access to abortion.

At a press conference held in Washington DC, outside the Supreme Court of the United States, Mayor of Eunice Billy Hobbs, announced the legal action.

“Our city councilors made a motion to approve the filing of a lawsuit against the Attorney General and the governor,” he said.

It is the latest in a series of legal actions and responses in which municipalities in New Mexico, supported by activists from Texas, have sought to challenge access to abortion, despite its remaining legal in the state.

Eunice is one of several cities and counties in the east of the state which passed ordinances citing a 19th century federal law known as the Comstock Act.

As originally written, the law forbids the mailing of anything relating to abortion, effectively prohibiting the procedure.

But the Department of Justice last year released a memo saying that the law “does not prohibit the mailing of certain drugs that can be used to perform abortions.”

Officials who oppose abortion want the Comstock Act to be implemented to the letter, and the new lawsuit calls for the courts to rule that it takes precedence over a new state law stopping local authorities restricting access to abortion.

Republican State Senator David Gallegos said with the Comstock Act still on the books, “we already have a de facto federal abortion ban here in America. And every single abortion industry in New Mexico is in violation of these federal abortion statutes.”

These local officials are supported by a Texas-based movement called Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn, and the press conference was led by a prominent activist from the group, Mark Lee Dickson.

“We want to see the Supreme Court of the United States address these federal statutes,” he said.

The state supreme court is set to hear arguments in relation to similar ordinances in the coming weeks. The town of Edgewood is also considering passing an ordinance later this month, despite the legislature passing House Bill 7 earlier this year which prohibited municipalities from restricting an individual’s right to access reproductive healthcare.

In response to the lawsuit, the governor said in a statement she is confident the courts will uphold the laws of New Mexico. And Attorney-General Torrez said that since the arguments in this case are similar to the ones already before the state supreme court, that is the body best suited to address them.

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Alice Fordham, KUNM
Alice Fordham, KUNM

Alice Fordham joined the news team in 2022 after a career as an international correspondent, reporting for NPR from the Middle East and later Latin America and Europe. She also worked as a podcast producer for The Economist among other outlets, and tries to meld a love of sound and storytelling with solid reporting on the community. She grew up in the U.K. and has a small jar of Marmite in her kitchen for emergencies.