A local government board in southern New Mexico approved a message Thursday saying that abortion clinics are not welcome in politically conservative Otero County — even though state law allows most abortion procedures.
The nonbinding anti-abortion resolution, approved in a 3-0 vote, said the commission “stands firmly against the presence in the county of Planned Parenthood clinics or any other clinics where abortion is practiced at will and on demand.”
At least two groups have announced plans to open new abortion facilities in New Mexico after the U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned Roe v. Wade and took away women’s constitutional protection for abortion nationwide.
One of them is the abortion provider at the center of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision that overturned Roe.
Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin sponsored of the resolution that condemns “voluntary abortion” practices. He said it responds to concerns that New Mexico may become a regional hub for people seeking abortions from neighboring states where the procedures are illegal or heavily restricted.
The resolution says abortion procedures aimed at protecting the health of a mother “will take place in a local hospital under the care of a physician,” and that the county takes a “neutral position” in instances involving incest or rape.
Otero County Attorney Roy Nichols said the resolution does not have any legal ramifications.
“This is not going to outlaw anything. This is more for the opinion to be expressed,” he said.
The Democrats who control the New Mexico Legislature support access to abortion, as does Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
State lawmakers last year repealed a dormant 1969 law that outlawed most New Mexico abortion procedures as felonies, ensuring access to abortion even after the Supreme Court rolled back the national guarantee.
Raw emotions about government regulation of abortion emerged at the Otero County commission meeting in Alamogordo for debate on the resolution, with dueling references to Christian scripture and quotations from the U.S. founders aimed at bolstering arguments for and against legal abortion access.
Commissioner Gerald Matherly said he voted against a similar anti-abortion resolution three years ago and supported the new measure because it leaves out opposition to abortions in instances of rape, incest or when a woman’s life is in danger.
“The state helps (with) birth control pills, they’re helping the mothers after the babies are born,” Matherly said. “I don’t believe that a person can just go out and have a wild Friday night — she gets pregnant and can go off and get an abortion. She should have, some people should have, responsibilities.”
Griffin — a firebrand conservative who was convicted of entering a restricted area at the U.S. Capitol in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection — urged other rural, conservative counties to adopt identical resolutions to try to contain the proliferation of abortion clinics.
“If the governor wants to embrace it in Santa Fe, if they want to have abortion clinics in Las Cruces, if they want to do it in Albuquerque, they are well within their rights to do so,” Griffin said. “But if they don’t want it Carlsbad, if they don’t want it in Roswell, if they don’t want it in Farmington, then those county commission boards need to get the same kind of resolution passed.”
Lujan Grisham signed an executive order last month that prohibits cooperation with other states that might interfere with abortion access in New Mexico, declining to carry out any future arrest warrants from other states related to anti-abortion provisions.
The order also prohibits most New Mexico state employees from assisting other states in investigating or seeking sanctions against local abortion providers.