A new frontline of the abortion battle in the United States has emerged in New Mexico. Two conservative towns are set to outlaw the medical procedure despite abortion remaining legal in the state.
Clovis and Hobbs do not even have abortion clinics in their towns. But the towns are strategic because they are near the border with Texas.
Texas was one of the first states to impose a near-total ban on abortion, with no exceptions for rape or incest, after Roe v. Wade was struck down by the Supreme Court. Abortion providers could face up to life in prison in Texas.
The New Mexican abortion provider within closest reach for most women in Texas is currently in Albuquerque, which is about a four-hour drive from Clovis, and five hours from Hobbs.
Recent city commission meetings in both Clovis and Hobbs saw anti-abortion ordinances advance. One of the largest independent abortion providers in the U.S. is considering setting up a clinic in eastern New Mexico and said the legal moves are making it reconsider.
Anti-abortion groups hope that other towns in the state will follow Clovis and Hobbs, ultimately vastly shrinking where abortions are performed in New Mexico. Abortion activists in New Mexico fear a new fight is coming to “blue” states across the nation.
Clovis and Hobbs will likely face legal challenges in eliminating abortion. But, similar measures have survived lawsuits in neighboring Texas. Voters in the town of Lubbock, Texas outlawed abortion in 2021.
A challenge by Planned Parenthood was unsuccessful, and its clinic in the town was forced to stop providing abortions even before Roe fell. The town-level strategy is the brainchild of a Christian pastor and a conservative lawyer who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who was a critic of Roe.
Mark Lee Dickson is the head of the Right to Life of East Texas. In New Mexico, Dickson worked with conservative lawyer Jonathan Mitchell, who was the architect of Texas’ 2021 “heartbeat” abortion law.
The influx of abortion-seeking women from Texas and word that a clinic could open in their towns drove pastors in Clovis and Hobbs to reach out to Dickson.