Edgewood protesters plan march to urge recall of town commission's abortion pill ban

May 12—Edgewood residents angered by a recent anti-abortion ordinance passed by the town's commission are calling for a recall vote on the legislation.

They also are planning a protest march to call attention to the ordinance, which would ban access to abortion pills and other abortion-related materials.

"It's not supported by the entire town," said Edgewood resident Marcia Smith of the April vote on ordinance 2023-002, which also would allow a person — though not the state, a political subdivision or an employee of a government agency — to file a civil lawsuit against anyone who violates the ordinance, which carries a minimum fine of $100,000.

State statute allows for a special recall election within 90 days if advocates can get a petition signed by at least 20% of the average number of registered voters who cast ballots in the most recent municipal election. Smith said that number is around 240 in Edgewood, and supporters have until May 26 to gather those signatures.

Smith and supporters plan to meet Saturday morning at the Southern Santa Fe County community's Walmart to walk and collect signatures.

Edgewood Mayor Pro Tem Jerry Powers, who voted for the ordinance, unsuccessfully tried to add an amendment during the April meeting that would put the question to voters in a special election as well.

In an interview Friday, Powers said he doesn't have a problem with the recall and said he prefers voters to decide the matter.

"I believe the will of the people should be done on something like this always, but on something as contentious as this certainly," Powers said. "It's a very divisive issue, and I think the townspeople deserve a vote on this."

The commission voted 4-1 for the ordinance early the morning of April 26 after nearly eight hours of debate and testimony.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, many states have banned or severely restricted abortion, while others, including New Mexico, have maintained access.

Edgewood's proposal was introduced not long after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill into state law that prohibits local governments from restricting access to abortion care. It comes amid legal action by the state against similar measures in some conservative Eastern New Mexico communities; each cites the federal Comstock Act, which prohibits mailing abortion-related materials.

The town commission should be focusing on providing resources and services for its citizens rather than getting embroiled in an issue that puts it at legal odds with the state, Smith said.

Edgewood resident Elaine Harrington, who spoke against the ordinance during the late April meeting, said in an interview Friday the commission "broke the law to pass this ordinance. I don't think it's what all the people want."

Harrington noted during the April commission meeting, several commissioners said Texas lawyer Jonathan Mitchelloffered to work for free for Edgewood to defend it against any lawsuits that could be filed on the matter.

Mitchell is gaining prominence in the anti-abortion community for his push for near-total bans on abortion in Texas and his strategies to slow or stop pro-abortion movements in other states.

Harrington said if more people "really understood what this ordinance signifies, using Edgewood as a stepping stone to a national ban," they would pay more attention and join the recall move.

A woman who declined to be identified said in a telephone interview Friday she fears some parts of New Mexico are being inundated with a "Texas influence" that is challenging reproductive rights.

"It's important to take part in this march to show true representation of the town," she said. "Not everyone wanted this ordinance passed and certainly as a woman of child bearing age, I am opposed to the ordinance and the commission's vote. Everyone has their own opinion on this, but it is one of the most personal and divisive things that has hit our country as a whole."