Press conference details lawsuit against New Mexico, emphasizes importance of Comstock Act

On Monday, April 17, a group of legislators, activists, and representatives from pro-life organizations, gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court for a press conference concerning a lawsuit filed on behalf of the city of Eunice, New Mexico. Jonathan F. Mitchell, Mike Seibel with Abortion on Trial, and Eunice City Attorney Tommy Parker filed the suit against New Mexico Governor Michelle Luhan Grisham, New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez, and the state government of New Mexico. 

The lawsuit states: 

The city of Eunice seeks a declaratory judgment that 18 U.S.C. §§ 1461 and 1462 [known as the Comstock Act] are the “supreme Law of the Land” under Article VI of the Constitution and trump any state-law right to abortion that may be conferred by HB 7 or the New Mexico constitution.

The lawsuit seeks enforcement of the Comstock Act, which prohibits mailing “any article, instrument, substance, drug, medicine, or thing [that] may, or can, be used or applied for producing abortion[.]” 

The Comstock Act was passed in 1873, and has recently been used as the foundation for ordinances outlawing abortion in three New Mexico cities and two counties. Two of those cities, Clovis and Hobbs, and both Lea and Roosevelt counties were subsequently sued by New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez for violating an alleged right to abortion in the New Mexico constitution.

Speaking at Monday’s press conference, Eunice Mayor Billy Hobbs stated, “The content of this lawsuit centers upon the ordinance we recently passed which – again – simply requires compliance with existing federal laws on abortion.” He added, “[I]t gives me great honor to say here in our nation’s capital, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Attorney General Raul Torrez – we will see you in court.”

City of Eunice Councilwoman Erica Jones pointed out that there is a shortage of medical facilities in New Mexico, and that even New Mexico’s governor has had to travel out of state for needed health care. “Right now we are losing hospitals and medical professionals and getting abortion facilities,” she said, adding: 

When a baby was left in a dumpster in our county, that baby had to be airlifted to a Neonatal hospital in Lubbock, Texas – two hours away from our city. The baby’s kidneys and liver were failing, the only option we had for that baby was to fly him to the nearest neonatal doctor, in a different state. … I question why we weren’t able to provide the same level of care to a newborn baby whose life depended on us. …

Right now our state’s leadership is focused on spending 10 million of our taxpayer dollars on opening an abortion facility in our state. What New Mexicans need is not more abortion clinics, but what New Mexicans truly need is more hospitals. … Abortion is not a savior, abortion is a destroyer. Abortion hurts women and ends the lives of our children.

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New Mexico State Senator David Gallegos also spoke. “The passage of … House Bill 7, did not sit well with the citizens of Eunice, New Mexico. HB 7 prohibits cities and counties from restricting abortion, completely ignoring the fact that the ordinances passed in these three cities and two counties in New Mexico are simply requiring compliance with federal laws on abortion.” He added, “We had bipartisan opposition to this bill in both the House and the Senate and the fact that this bill even passed shows that we have much work to do in our State. The fight for New Mexico is not going to be won overnight, but we will win this fight for the heart and soul of our State.” 

Ending his speech, he concluded, “Madame Governor, I think we all know what you are truly afraid of. You are afraid of these federal laws which are already on our books. Madame Governor, consider yourself Comstocked.”

Other speakers included Director of Right to Life of East Texas and Founder of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative, Mark Lee Dickson; Executive Director of Right to Life Committee New Mexico, Ethel Maharg; Right to Life Committee of Lea County member and Board Member of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Lori Bova; Founder and CEO of Southwest Coalition for Life, Mark Cavaliere; Logan Brown of Grace Covenant Reformed Church in Clovis, New Mexico; City Councilman Chris Hanie of Odessa, Texas; Dr. Michael New; Sister Deirdre “DeDe” Byrne, POSC; and Pastor Brad Wells from GraceWay Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.

Maryland Representative Jamie Raskin attended the event and heckled the pro-lifers in attendance.

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