August 30, 2023

New Mexico Supreme Court sets date for oral arguments on anti-abortion ordinances 

Andy Lyman

The New Mexico Supreme Court

The New Mexico Supreme Court will hear oral argument over the legality of anti-abortion ordinances some smaller jurisdictions passed last winter, creating a “patchwork” of abortion access in the state.

The oral arguments will be heard at 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 13 and the parties will argue the legality of those anti-abortion ordinances now that the Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare law applies. The law, which prohibits public bodies from discriminating against reproductive or gender-affirming healthcare, passed the legislature in March.

New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez filed an emergency petition for writ of mandamus and request for stay with the New Mexico Supreme Court in March regarding Lea and Roosevelt counties and the cities of Hobbs and Clovis because all four had passed anti-abortion ordinances during the winter despite the fact that abortion is legal in New Mexico. 

The legislature passed HB 7, the bill that prohibits public bodies from discriminating against abortion or gender-affirming care, in March. The bill was designed to prevent municipalities and counties from passing local anti-abortion ordinances. While the legislature was in still in session, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the bill into law. Within a few weeks, Torrez’s office filed his petition, asking the state’s highest court to ask for clarification. The court requested all parties involved to file briefs explaining what affect the Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Health care law has on the local ordinances.

The bill’s primary sponsor, state Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Santa Fe, said previously that the bill was designed to stop what she called “a patchwork” of abortion access around the state.

The court also granted some abortion rights groups the ability to file amici brief on behalf of Torrez’s suit. The court denied some anti-abortion groups the ability to file amici curiae on behalf of the two counties and two municipalities. Amici curiae is an impartial advisor.