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County sets abortion rule hearing

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Curtis Wynne/News-Sun

LOVINGTON — The Lea County Commission will hear arguments on both sides of a proposed ordinance governing abortion services in Lea County at a public meeting scheduled for Dec. 8.

While the county is restricted in how much it can do legally, according to County Attorney John Caldwell, the proposed ordinance would require compliance with federal abortion laws.

Introducing a resolution for commissioners’ consideration, Caldwell said, “This is just authorizing publication in the newspaper. We’re required by state law to do this at least 14 days before the hearing. The next meeting you will have will be outside the 14 days on Dec. 8, so the hearing will be on Dec. 8.”

The proposed ordinance, titled the “Federal Abortion Law Compliance Ordinance,” reiterates provisions of two federal statutes that prohib it shipping or receiving abortion inducing drugs and other parapher nalia by mail or commercial carrier

Addressing the commission, Lea County resident Nick Maxwell offered a more restrictive proposal that would criminalize abortions in the county and call for jail time for violators instead of the $300 fine stated in the planned ordinance.

“This ordinance is toothless, totally unenforceable and will do absolutely nothing to effectuate what the majority of the people in this county wish for,” Maxwell said. Since state law now is silent on abortion, Maxwell said, “What I’m suggesting is that this board ought to take the repealed state statute and put it in a county ordinance. … It should prohibit abortion.”

Caldwell explained the county cannot do that due to its relationship to the state.

“Unfortunately, as we have discussed in the past, there are home rule entities and there are Dillon rule entities,” Caldwell said. “The City of Hobbs and the City of Clovis are home rule municipalities. There are only two counties in the State of New Mexico that are home rule counties, Bernalillo and Los Alamos counties.”

Named after an early 20th Century judge, the Dillon rule states entities may do only what the state explicitly says they may do. Home rule entities may do almost anything except what the state explicitly prohibits, the attorney explained.

“That’s the reason the ordinance is drafted the way it is, making it a violation if you violate those two federal statutes,” Caldwell concluded. “Again, the difference is home rule versus Dillon rule.”

Only two other members of the public addressed the commission on the abortion issue. Hobbs resident and Right to Life activist Lori Bova expressed appreciation to the commission for taking action on the issue.

“I’ve been shocked with our state’s disregard for life,” Bova said. “Our communities are pro-life, but abortion on demand until day of delivery with no parental consent, no parental notification, no medical necessity, is legal in New Mexico.”

State Sen. David Gallegos, R-Eunice, noting the more than 60 million abortions performed under Roe

v. Wade, likened the loss of life to the horrors of the Holocaust.

“New Mexico is 50 percent Catholic,” Gallegos said. “I think New Mexico as a whole, except a few leaders, want to save lives. If we were talking about women’s health, it would be done in a hospital, but it isn’t.”

The senator concluded, “I think God gave us the cure for cancer, but we aborted her.”

Commissioner Jonathan Sena, acknowledging the complexities of the abortion issue and the community’s need to help all individuals, said, “I think moving forward with this ordinance will help us in that process to support kids, support unborn children and the women.”

Commissioner Pat Sims interjected, “I have an observation. The Hobbs hospital doesn’t have a pediatrician, yet people are fighting to get an abortion clinic. That just seems screwed up, to me.”

Sena responded, “We definitely have a lot of work to do for health care. You’re right, we have to do better.”

Commissioners voted unanimously to publish the notice of a hearing on the proposed ordinance.

In other county business Thursday, commissioners approved addition Lea County Fair and Rodeo participants — Wright’s Outdoor Amusement Co. for the carnival and Pete Carr of Carr Pro Rodeo as stock contractor.

Led by County Assistant Manager Corey Needham, commissioners also discussed three additional ordinance proposals for future presentations, including adjustments to a nuisance rule, clarifying county addresses and firming up rules regarding mobile and manufactured home placement and transport.

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