When the legendary founder of Thebes, Cadmus, approached the site of his future city, he sent his companions to get water. The nearby spring was guarded by a dragon that killed most of Cadmus’ entourage. Thebes would eventually be established, but without the people Cadmus intended to settle it.
Since then, a victory with little or dubious benefit to the victor is known as a Cadmean victory.
So we come to the Edgewood anti-abortion ordinance.
There are no abortion clinics in Edgewood. New Mexico just created a law proscribing local ordinances banning or curtailing abortion care.
The ordinance, and similar ordinances passed in Clovis, Hobbs, Eunice, and Lea and Roosevelt Counties claim precedent from the 150+-year-old federal Comstock Act which prohibits mailing “obscene material,” that is, abortion medication or products.
Edgewood’s ordinance would allow private citizens to sue a resident violating the act for $10,000 plus costs and attorney’s fees. That citizen-enforcement model seems unlikely to be acted upon in the case of individual residents but is mostly likely intended to keep local pharmacies from stocking abortion pills (which can also be used to treat miscarriages).
Bringing the proposed ordinance to the town agenda was the equivalent of lobbing a grenade at the mayor and town commissioners. The Republican Party has happily allowed the abortion issue to become a weapon, even though most Americans do not want outright bans on abortion.
(A February Gallup poll showed that 69% of Americans are dissatisfied with abortion laws and only 15% want stricter laws. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll from last August – just after Roe v. Wade was overturned – showed that only 25% of respondents wanted their state to outlaw abortion.)
This weaponization means that Republican politicians cannot go on the record voting against any anti-abortion measure and hope to win a primary, where the single-issue voters come out in droves.
During the town commission meeting where the ordinance was heard, two commissioners gave warnings about the ordinance, and the imminent demands on staff time and legal funds. But they voted for it anyway. Because they had to if they had any hope of getting through the next primary.
What a wonderful reason to cast a vote.
The ordinance was pushed through by a Texan activist who helped usher in Texas’ own draconian abortion law. The crowd at the meeting was largely comprised of supporters from out of town.
Opponents of the ordinance who spoke during the public comment period at the meeting noted the ordinance would be costly and take time away from other town business. In particular, the ordinance is in direct conflict with the new Reproductive and Gender Affirming Health Care Act, and briefs are already filed with the state Supreme Court in the matter by the attorney general to block previous local ordinances.
Oh. And the town has been denied legal liability coverage by a municipal liability insurance pool, according to the Associated Press. The town has had its share of legal drama in recent years before this even came up.
To sum up, Edgewood’s leaders let some guy from out of state along with a bunch of people from out of town blackmail them into an ordinance that is vaguely enforceable and definitely going to hit the Supreme Court. And the town lacks legal insurance coverage.
What could go wrong?
Be wary of the dragon lurking by the spring.
Merritt Hamilton Allen is a PR executive and former Navy officer. She appears regularly as a panelist on NM PBS and is a frequent guest on News Radio KKOB. A Republican, she lives amicably with her Democratic husband north of I-40 where they run two head of dog, and two of cat. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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