By MORGAN LEE Associated Press
SANTA FE, NM (AP) — A local government board in southern New Mexico approved a message Thursday that says abortion clinics are not welcome in politically conservative Otero County, despite state law allows most abortion procedures.
The non-binding anti-abortion resolution, passed on a 3-0 vote, said the commission “strongly opposes the presence in the county of Planned Parenthood clinics or any other clinic where abortion is performed at will and on demand.”
At least two groups have announced plans to open new abortion facilities in New Mexico after the US Supreme Court in June overturned Roe v. Wade and removed women’s constitutional protection for abortion across the country.
One of them is the abortion provider at the center of the Dobbs v. Women’s Health Organization decision. Jackson who overruled Roe.
Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin sponsored the resolution condemning “voluntary abortion” practices. He said he responds to concerns that New Mexico could become a regional hub for people seeking abortions in neighboring states where the procedures are illegal or highly restricted.
The resolution says that abortion procedures intended to protect a mother’s health “shall be performed in a local hospital under the care of a physician,” and that the county takes a “neutral position” in cases of incest or rape.
Otero County Prosecutor Roy Nichols said the ruling has no legal ramifications.
“This is not going to ban anything. This is more for opinion to be expressed,” she said.
Democrats who control the New Mexico Legislature support abortion access, as does Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.
State lawmakers last year struck down a dormant 1969 law that banned most abortion procedures in New Mexico as felonies, ensuring abortion access even after the Supreme Court struck down the national guarantee.
Raw emotions about government regulation of abortion surfaced at the Otero County commission meeting in Alamogordo to debate the resolution, with conflicting references to Christian scriptures and quotes from US founders meant to reinforce the arguments for and against access to legal abortion.
Commissioner Gerald Matherly said he voted against a similar anti-abortion resolution three years ago and supported the new measure because it rules out opposition to abortion in cases of rape, incest or when a woman’s life is in danger.
“The state helps (with) birth control pills, they are helping mothers after the babies are born,” Matherly said. “I don’t think a person can just go out and have a wild Friday night — she gets pregnant and she can go off and have an abortion. She should have, some people should have, responsibilities.”
Griffin, a conservative firebrand who was convicted of entering a restricted area at the US Capitol in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, urged other conservative rural counties to adopt identical resolutions to try to contain the proliferation of abortion clinics.
“If the governor wants to accept it in Santa Fe, if he wants to have abortion clinics in Las Cruces, if he wants to do it in Albuquerque, he is within his rights to do so,” Griffin said. “But if they don’t want it in Carlsbad, if they don’t want it in Roswell, if they don’t want it in Farmington, then those county boards of commissions need to pass the same type of resolution.”
Lujan Grisham signed an executive order last month prohibiting cooperation with other states that may interfere with abortion access in New Mexico, refusing to execute future warrants from other states related to anti-abortion provisions.
The order also prohibits most New Mexico state employees from helping other states investigate or seek sanctions against local abortion providers.
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