Mark Lee Dickson has made it his life’s work to criminalize abortion within the state of Texas. A pastor and the top of Right to Life of East Texas — in addition to a self-identified “36-year-old virgin” — Dickson traveled to 400 Texas cities in 2019, encouraging cities to declare themselves “sanctuary cities for the unborn” and cross ordinances outlawing abortion. He was profitable, aiding the passage of almost 50 ordinances banning abortion in cities in Texas and a handful of different states.
His achievements on the street jump-started his career as one of the well-known anti-abortion advocates within the nation.
Dickson’s legislative technique for banning abortions on the metropolis degree paved the best way for Texas’ vigilante-enforced six-week abortion ban that went into impact final year. The anti-abortion advocate, together with lawyer and former Texas Solicitor General Jonathan Mitchell, formulated an enforcement mechanism that may circumvent any authorized or court docket challenges: delegating enforcement to non-public residents, slightly than regulation enforcement or different authorities businesses. That performed out in cities throughout Texas, till Dickson and Mitchell took their concept statewide. With the assistance of Texas Republicans, Dickson helped craft Senate Bill 8 ― probably the most excessive abortion restriction on the time ― which financially incentivized personal residents to sue anybody who aids or abets Texans making an attempt to get an abortion previous the six-week level.
Unlike different latest makes an attempt to ban abortion early in being pregnant, S.B. 8 was capable of survive authorized challenges when Roe v. Wade was nonetheless the regulation of the land. The measure, arguably one of many first main warning indicators that Roe would quickly fall, was an enormous victory for abortion opponents like Dickson.
Fast-forward a full year, and Roe is lifeless. Over a dozen states together with Texas have enacted near-total abortion bans, forcing many Americans to journey to different states to obtain care.
Dickson, triumphant in Texas, has now turned his sights to New Mexico ― a state the place many Texans have fled to entry essential abortion care.
Two New Mexico cities close to the Texas border are discussing abortion bans inside their metropolis limits that can come to a vote within the coming weeks, and a handful of different communities within the space, together with the town of Lovington and Lea County, are discussing comparable measures. The metropolis council in Clovis, a farming city in japanese New Mexico, will vote Nov. 3 on an ordinance that seeks to ban abortion suppliers and criminalize sending remedy abortion, or abortion drugs, by mail. And the town fee in Hobbs, a city about 2 1/2 hours south of Clovis, voted overwhelmingly earlier this month to proceed with an ordinance to ban abortion. A ultimate vote in Hobbs is about for Nov. 7.
Dickson has been a central determine behind each of those proposals.
He’s been in communication with Clovis residents for greater than a year to make the city a “sanctuary city for the unborn,” Dickson told Eastern New Mexico News earlier this month.
“All I did was answer a call. All I did was go where the Lord was calling me to go,” stated Dickson. “I did not go forward thinking I could do this on my own. I went forward saying, ‘God help me. God help this city. I can’t do this alone. We can’t do this alone. We are going to need your help.’”
Dickson spoke at an anti-abortion rally in Hobbs earlier this month, alongside different abortion opponents from Texas and New Mexico. He can be seen cheering within the background of a Hobbs City Commission meeting after an all-male board voted unanimously to proceed with an ordinance banning abortion.
Neither Clovis or Hobbs have abortion clinics inside their metropolis limits, however some reproductive well being organizations have expressed curiosity in increasing abortion companies to cities that border Texas to accommodate for the inflow of sufferers touring to New Mexico. Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, recently said she’d like to supply companies in or round Clovis, Hobbs and Roswell, one other New Mexico city close to the Texas border.
Dickson is making an attempt to preempt any such transfer. “We know that abortion providers want to set up right here in these cities that are just minutes away from the Texas border,” Dickson told Reuters after a latest Hobbs City Commission meeting. “They want to attract as many Texas residents as possible for abortions right here in New Mexico.”
Both the Clovis and Hobbs ordinances are prone to face authorized challenges if handed, however comparable measures in Texas, additionally spearheaded by Dickson, have survived previous lawsuits. There are at present eight abortion clinics in New Mexico. The closest for Clovis and Hobbs residents are positioned in Albuquerque, which is a four- to five-hour drive away.
Many Texans and Oklahomans have fled to New Mexico as a way to entry abortion care within the final year. Since 2021, when Texas’ vigilante abortion ban went into impact, New Mexico has taken on a flood of Texas sufferers, with one clinic reporting that it was booked 4 weeks out and 75% of its sufferers had been from Texas. In the wake of Roe’s reversal, the Southwestern state has turn out to be house to a number of clinics that had been compelled to close down and relocate together with Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Mississippi clinic on the middle of the Supreme Court case that ended nationwide abortion protections.
New Mexico can be one in all 5 states that supply essential abortion care later in being pregnant as a result of there isn’t a authorized restrict on abortion within the state.
There’s an opportunity, although a slim one, that the upcoming elections might change that. Joe Biden received New Mexico with an almost 11% margin of victory over Donald Trump within the 2020 election, and Democrats maintain the governor’s seat and a majority in each chambers of the state legislature. It’s a largely pro-choice state, though some pockets ― together with rural areas like those Dickson is concentrating on ― lean extra conservative.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) at present leads her GOP rival, abortion opponent Mark Ronchetti, by about 7.5 points within the polls. Dickson has endorsed Ronchetti a number of instances, most lately posting a photograph of himself with the candidate on Facebook and writing Ronchetti would “be a serious upgrade” from Lujan Grisham.
During his major, Ronchetti ran on a “strongly pro-life” platform wherein he stated he would oppose abortion “at all stages” and that “unborn babies have souls, can feel emotions, and are every bit a human being.” But after Roe fell this summer time, Ronchetti began strolling again his sturdy anti-abortion views ― seemingly taking a web page out of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R) playbook.
Now, Ronchetti is portray himself as a average, saying he would “seek a middle ground on abortion” and calling for a 15-week ban. Just final month Ronchetti ran a campaign ad once more downplaying his anti-abortion stance and proposing a statewide vote on a constitutional modification on abortion to “give people a voice.”
But Dickson remains to be supporting Ronchetti. During the Clovis City Commission meeting earlier this month, Dickson claimed he and Ronchetti lately mentioned the abortion ban ordinances.
“I was talking to Mark Ronchetti, and I was telling him a while back about what was happening here tonight. And I said, you know, this is what you’re talking about … among the people, the communities deciding this issue,” Dickson stated whereas talking to the town fee board.
“I said, when Clovis does this, don’t waste the opportunity,” he continued. “Stand with the people of Clovis, stand with the people of Hobbs, stand with the people of New Mexico that are pro-life and want to see this state, these counties, these cities, move forward with the heart of what New Mexicans truly believe.”
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