A Dallas-based religious organization published anti-abortion advertisements in the state’s two largest newspapers this weekend, highlighting a 2017 statement from the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops to boost Republican gubernatorial hopeful Steve Pearce. It’s a move that has drawn the ire of the bishops.
The full-page advertisements in The New Mexican and the Albuquerque Journal republished a year-old statement from the bishops on the “dignity of human life,” emphasizing excerpts in which the bishops expressed strident opposition to abortion and physician-assisted suicide as “morally impermissible” and “always wrong.”
The advertisements also show a side-by-side comparison of Pearce and Michelle Lujan Grisham, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, delineating Pearce’s opposition to abortion access and physician-assisted suicide and Lujan Grisham’s support.
“On November 6th vote your Catholic values!” the ad reads in capital letters.
The ads were produced by the Hispanic Action Network, a conservative organization that advocates for policies inspired by a “biblical worldview” — including opposition to gay marriage and nonbinary gender identities as well as support for “the posting of the Ten Commandments and prayer in public schools,” according to the group’s “core values” webpage.
The Hispanic Action Network also has produced a bilingual New Mexico election guide, highlighting state candidates’ stances on issues including “men in girls’ bathrooms/locker rooms” and “gender change on birth certificates.”
The state Conference of Catholic Bishops in a Sunday statement said it had no role in the production of the advertisements.
Allen Sánchez, the conference’s executive director, said the bishops were caught off guard by the ads and disapproved of their 2017 statement being used as a political prop. “We’re very disappointed a political action committee would use a statement out of context like that,” he said.
“We want people to vote,” Sánchez added. “We want people to weigh all the issues and seek the common good. What we object to is somebody trying to use the teaching of the church to advance candidates. … They’re trying to appeal to the authority of the bishops for their own purpose.”
Sánchez called on Pearce to condemn the advertisements.
A spokesman for the Pearce campaign declined, deferring comment to the Hispanic Action Network.
“Steve Pearce supports people of faith, and it’s not surprising they support him,” spokesman Kevin Sheridan said. “We would direct questions about independent ads to the groups issuing them.”
Messages to the Hispanic Action Network were not returned.
It was only the latest advertisement from an outside group in New Mexico’s increasingly combative gubernatorial race.
The 2017 anti-abortion statement from the bishops arrived in the middle of a legislative session in which a few Catholic Democratic legislators expressed support for abortion access.
The joint statement — from the leaders and emeritus leaders of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and New Mexico’s two other two dioceses — sought to clarify that “individuals and groups,” such as legislators, “do not speak for the Catholic Church.”
“As bishops, we do,” the statement read, explaining the church works “to uphold the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death.”
Sánchez said the advertisement was hypocritical.
“The whole point of that letter was that other people aren’t the voice of the church,” Sánchez said. “It’s amazing [the ad] used a letter about not speaking for the church — here they are trying to speak for the church. That’s wrong.”