HOBBS, New Mexico, Nov 7 (Reuters) – A New Mexico town near the Texas border on Monday unanimously passed an ordinance designed to ban abortions, despite the procedure being legal in the state.
The so-called “sanctuary city for the unborn” ordinance blocks abortion clinics from operating and its passage by the Hobbs city commission marks a first for a town in a state controlled by the Democratic Party, according to anti-abortion advocates.
Hobbs does not have an abortion clinic, but could be a place for such a clinic that could serve people from Republican-controlled Texas, to the east. Whole Woman’s Health, one of the largest providers of abortions in the United States, has told Reuters it was interested in opening a clinic in Hobbs or nearby Clovis.
Texas was one of the first states to impose a near-total ban on abortion and providers could face up to life in prison there.
The all-male Hobbs city commission voted 7-0 to approve the ordinance after hearing from several speakers on both sides of the issue. The crowd of about 150 people packed into the commission chambers was overwhelmingly anti-abortion and erupted into shouting, hugging and crying in celebration when the ordinance was approved.
“This is just heaven! We’re leading the way and maybe, eventually, we can turn this state around,” said Jan Auld, vice-president of the Right to Life group of Lea County, which includes Hobbs, moments after the vote. “God is in control, and he showed up tonight.”
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham told Reuters in a written statement that the ordinance had been “authored by out-of-state extremists” and that it is “a clear affront to the rights and personal autonomy of every woman in Hobbs and southeastern New Mexico, and we will not stand for it.”
“Reproductive health care is legal and protected in every corner of our state,” Grisham wrote. “Providers delivering health care have every right to establish a practice, and all women have the right to access medication abortion services, no matter where in New Mexico they call home.”
Another New Mexico city, Clovis, last week indefinitely postponed a similar ordinance, with city commissioners there saying they felt it was too rushed.
An East Texas anti-abortion group trying to get a foothold in New Mexico and pastors in Clovis said the Clovis politicians faced political pressure from state-level Republicans who feared a backlash ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections.
Both Clovis and Hobbs are located in conservative eastern New Mexico. Clovis also does not currently have an abortion clinic. Both are considered test cases for how anti-abortion activists will operate in “blue,” or Democratic-controlled, states where abortion remains legal after the Supreme Court in June struck down federal abortion protections in Roe v. Wade.
Mark Lee Dickson, the head of the Right to Life of East Texas and the architect of the “sanctuary city” movement that has seen over 50 cities adopt anti-abortion measures in Texas and other conservative states, hopes to replicate the success elsewhere in New Mexico and in other blue Democratic states where abortion remained legal.
“There are people all over the United States that are wanting to see their cities take steps to protect the health and welfare of unborn children, and I believe that this can be the path forward for every single state in America,” Dickson said after the vote.
While Whole Woman’s Health has been interested in opening a clinic in Hobbs or Clovis to serve women coming from Texas into New Mexico seeking the procedure, the towns’ embrace of the “sanctuary city for the unborn” movement is now giving the provider pause.
Reporting by Brad Brooks in Hobbs, New Mexico; Editing by Donna Bryson and Edwina Gibbs
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.