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Eunice joins abortion clinic fray with caution

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EUNICE — With little fanfare and less open discussion, the Eunice City Council last week joined the abortion fray as City Attorney Tommy Parker provided a draft ordinance to councilors.

“It’s a very touchy issue,” Parker told the council. “I know a lot of people are pro-choice, but being in a conservative area, I think this will be of benefit to the city.”

The attorney asked the councilors to review the draft and contact him with any questions or comments over the next few weeks so he can prepare a formal ordinance for consideration.

“It addresses the issues of not only the state law, but also federal law,” Parker said. He noted the decision in the U.S. Supreme Court’s case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June returned the abortion issue to the states. 

The State of New Mexico protects abortions up to birth while nearby Texas banned the practice after a heartbeat is detected soon after the Supreme Court reversed the historic Roe v. Wade decision.

At least one Texas abortion clinic has initiated efforts to move its activities to the Lea County area.

In early November, Hobbs became the first city in New Mexico to approve an ordinance making operation of an abortion clinic more difficult by requiring such a business to comply with federal laws in order to be licensed to do business in the city.

The referenced federal laws prohibit shipping abortion drugs or equipment by U.S. mail or commercial delivery services such as FedEx or UPS.

The Lea County Commissioners expect to conduct a hearing for a similar ordinance on Dec. 8 while Lovington’s City Commission also is considering steps to restrict the ability of abortion clinics to operate in the city. The City of Clovis has indefinitely tabled its similar ordinance. 

Parker told the News-Sun local communities are expected to determine whether to enforce the federal laws and more liberal cities like Santa Fe and Las Cruces simply have chosen to ignore those laws.

Councilor Jerry Corral asked Parker for a timeline regarding the proposed ordinance.

“You need two readings,” Parker said, noting the first reading could be at the Dec. 12 meeting of the council. “The second reading would be in January. It would become effective 30 days after that.” 

The council cancelled its regularly scheduled second meeting of December in view of the Christmas holiday.

Parker acknowledged the practical expectation of legal ramifications whether or not the city approves and ordinance.

“What we anticipate is somewhere in the future, there’s always going to be a challenge,” Parker said. “State government may challenge what we propose and what we enact. I think if it’s carefully drafted, we can withstand the challenge because we have not acted in a discriminatory manner. We’ve acted in line with the principles that we believe are appropriate in this area so we comply with state and federal law. 

“It doesn’t necessarily mean somebody won’t bring a lawsuit, but I think if we are careful how we draft it where we provide restrictions that comply more with the federal law and comply a lot with what the values are in this portion of the state, specifically from this ordinance,” Parker continued.

Eunice Mayor Billy Hobbs interjected, “No matter what you do, somebody can sue you for something.”

Parker agreed, “Lawsuits can be brought any day for anything any time, but we want to be prepared.”

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