NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – In April, the City of Eunice, New Mexico sued the state’s governor over a new abortion-related law set to go into effect in June. Now, the lawyer representing New Mexico is asking the court to pause the lawsuit.
The idea behind the latest filing is to try to get the district court to put the lawsuit on hold while the state’s Supreme Court makes a decision on a similar case. At the heart of the debate is whether or not individual cities are allowed to set local ordinances that might contradict state laws.
Starting June 16, a state law will prohibit public entities from interfering (even indirectly) with a person’s access to reproductive healthcare. But Eunice, New Mexico, is arguing that federal law trumps state law and makes it illegal to ship or receive abortion medication. The city has also pointed out that “the city’s ordinance does not outlaw or prohibit abortion.”
As those arguments play out in district court, other New Mexico localities have made similar arguments in a case now in the hands of the New Mexico Supreme Court. The court did rule that local abortion-related ordinances should be paused as the Supreme Court considers each side’s arguments.
Attorney General Raúl Torrez has filed paperwork to try to also pause the lawsuit with the City of Eunice. “We have asked the District Court to stay proceedings until the New Mexico Supreme Court can finally resolve the constitutional and statutory foundation for uniform access to reproductive healthcare across New Mexico,” Torrez said in a press release.“
Michael J. Seibel, the lawyer representing the City of Eunice, says they oppose Torrez’s request.
“We don’t think that the Supreme Court is addressing the issue that we have raised in the Eunice lawsuit,” Seibel told KRQE News 13. Seibel argues that the Supreme Court case is not addressing the Comstock Act, which is federal law and underlies the debate over Eunice’s ordinance.
The Comstock Act is the same 1873 law that other communities, like Edgewood, NM, have used to argue for limits on certain abortion medication delivery practices. Supporters of such ordinances argue that shipping abortion medication is illegal under that 1873 federal law. But across the U.S., others have argued that the federal law has been narrowed over the years and rarely enforced.