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Town of Edgewood to propose ordinance restricting access to abortion

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New Mexico has seen significant movement on protecting reproductive healthcare and access to abortion. Still the town of Edgewood is considering an ordinance that would likely violate state law and court rulings.

Theordinance would restrict access to any drugs used to produce an abortion through the mail and further would make it difficult for abortion clinics to open and operate since they could not have supplies shipped to them.

The ordinance cites compliance with the federal Comstock Act, but the U.S. Justice Department has stated the mailing of such medications would not violate the law.

The town council meeting to propose the ordinance was streamed on Facebook Tuesday night. Tensions ran high as only one of the five commissioners did not support the ordinance and the crowd constantly yelled out in their support of restricting access to abortion in the town of Edgewood, even though public comment was not to be heard.

Frank Coppler, a lawyer in Santa Fe who practices municipal law, was at the meeting. He told attendees that if the public officials they elected enforced the ordinance they will face a civil penalty. The amount of the penalty would be $5,000 per violation or actual damages, whichever would be higher.

"There’s not enough money in New Mexico to stand that judgment" said Coppler.

Coppler continued that as long as a newly enacted state law was on the books, Edgewood cannot enact any ordinance that’s expressly denied by general law.

"I’m sorry, that’s the facts. Now you can go ahead and adopt this ordinance, but it’s not going to be enforceable" Coppler said.

The legislature passed House Bill 7 that prohibits public bodiesincludinglocal governmentsfrom denying and restricting access to reproductive health care, which the governor has signed into law. The New Mexico Supreme Court has also ordered a suspension of similarordinances passed in cities and counties in eastern New Mexico, in response to a request from the Attorney General.

The next meeting is on April 25th, the town will hear public comment and it may make a decision on the ordinance at that time.

This coverage is made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and KUNM listeners.

Taylor is a reporter with our Poverty and Public Health project. She is a lover of books and a proud dog mom. She's been published in Albuquerque The Magazine several times and enjoys writing about politics and travel.
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