Margaret Wright is a freelance writer and editor born and raised in Albuquerque, NM. She has also worked as a teacher, social worker and waitress. She was promoted from contributor to managing editor of Albuquerque’s alt.weekly Alibi before going on to co-found the New Mexico Compass (R.I.P.), a digital news and culture outlet with an emphasis on mentoring fledgling journalists.
During a sit-down earlier this month in the sparse Albuquerque administrative office for Planned Parenthood of New Mexico, CEO Vicki Cowart wondered aloud if the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision had lulled much of the public into taking legal abortion for granted. Here in New Mexico, abortion access has been solidly maintained by decades of activism by rights proponents and their collaborations with supportive elected officials. “Two generations of women have grown into adults with this not being an issue,” said Cowart. Yet two generations of women have seen gradual rollbacks in abortion rights and access in many other states across the country, where anti-abortion activists intent on ending the practice have been doggedly, methodically successful. Read this story’s companion piece, “NM state law, the U.S. Supreme Court and abortion access” here.
Reproductive healthcare and abortion access may be profoundly personal decisions, but changes to public policy in New Mexico could generate repercussions that extend far beyond the most private experiences of women across the state. According to recent analysis by the Guttmacher Institute, nearly one-in-four women in the United States have had or will have an abortion by age 45. And since Associate Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced in June that he would retire July 31, attention to a 50-year-old New Mexico law has intensified. Dormant since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in 1973, the statute would go back into effect if Roe is overturned, meaning anyone who performs an abortion in New Mexico could be charged with a 4th-degree felony. Read this story’s companion piece, “Midterms could be key, with New Mexico’s abortion rights protections at a crossroads,” here.
The social stigma attached to abortion means that many people don’t talk about it openly, said Planned Parenthood of New Mexico CEO Vicki Cowart in a recent interview, but there are millions of women for whom it has played a part in their personal and family histories.
Last month, Albuquerque-based anti-abortion missionaries Bud and Tara Shaver and the University of New Mexico branch of Students for Life co-sponsored a screening of a documentary promoted as a way to “start a healthy conversation” about abortion. Someone chalked sidewalks outside the university campus venue with phrases like “Support unbiased research” and “Abortion does not cause breast cancer.” Tara told me she’d invited several pro-choice groups and was disappointed none of their members attended. What she didn’t mention was that the documentary itself had already been decried by medical experts as misleading, unfair and emotionally manipulative—a form of conspiracy thinking rendered in film. Two weeks after the screening, Tara told me she’d read an article I wrote in February about a Massachusetts project that in the 1990s helped bridge extreme rifts between local abortion activists. Tara thought another showing of the documentary could promote civil discourse about a severely polarizing issue.
The Feast of the Annunciation marked by the Catholic Church falls not long after the vernal equinox, in time for the arrival of new spring growth. It commemorates the biblical story of when a young, unmarried virgin living in poverty, Mary, found herself “greatly troubled by the words” pronounced by an angel. She’d been divinely selected for an “immaculate” conception, with assurance she’d give birth to the masculine incarnation of a paternal, all-powerful God. On this year’s Day of Annunciation, the Vatican released Pope Francis’ formal words of encouragement for Christian community members, a far-ranging document “crowned” by a renewed declaration that Mary, “blessed above all other saints,” be the one Christians turn to for both solace and guidance. She was, said Pope Francis, penultimate in her ability to embody, live and extend the teachings of Jesus.
The Albuquerque-based Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women has hosted its fifth annual Tribal Leaders Summit to brief tribal, state and federal officials who work with victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Last week’s event included presentations by Navajo Nation Council Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty, former U.S. Assistant District Attorney for New Mexico David Adams, and Alray Nelson, lead organizer for the Coalition for Diné Equality. NM Political Report sat down with Cheyenne Antonio, project coordinator for the Coalition’s anti-sex trafficking initiatives, and Kimberly Benally, the Coalition’s training and development manager, after the two-day summit to hear some of their takeaways. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity. NMPR: Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall were both invited but didn’t attend this year’s summit, in part because they were in D.C. voting to pass FOSTA, federal legislation intended to hold websites accountable for platforming activities related to prostitution and sex trafficking.
Correction: In referencing a Ms. article from 2011, this story originally said that Chris Garcia was one of the operators of an allegedly illegal website, Southwest Companions. Garcia was charged by police of being an operator of the site, which they alleged was a house of prostitution, but a state district court judge threw out all the charges. The reference has been removed. It’s rare lately for Democrats and Republicans in Congress to find consensus, though some phrases like “infrastructure” and “small businesses” still inspire legislators to declare their willingness to work together. “Sex trafficking” is another one of those.
Ripple effects of the #MeToo movement addressing sexual assault and harassment continue to cascade, from Hollywood to academia, sports to politics. For people like Pamela Stafford who are closest to those at particular risk of assault and harassment, such public conversations feel painfully overdue. “I don’t think there’s been as much of a ripple effect as we would like to see,” she said during an interview last week. Growing up alongside a disabled sibling pushed Stafford toward a career in advocacy. And today at The Arc of New Mexico, a non-profit offering services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, she prepares to take on a new role.
It’s been three years since I began work for NM Political Report focused on politics and what are often referred to as “women’s issues.” It’s phrasing I reflexively shy away from, as there are few issues not relevant to women. Areas like reproductive health and access relate to everyone, regardless of background and gender identity—they’re relevant to every family, no matter their composition or belief systems.
Yet many public policies have disproportionate effects on women and families with children. Protections for pregnant workers, for example, were among the proposals I followed in 2015 and were among the many which failed to garner enough support from lawmakers. I also covered public policy and discourse related to abortion, which bears heavy baggage in simple utterance of the word. Then, the local atmosphere surrounding abortion felt both disconcertingly polarized and exhausted.
These photos were taken during the reporting of the story on Santolina that ran in New Mexico Political Report on Monday. Look for a video talking about the Santolina Master Plan from those in support of the plan and those in opposition of the plan on Tuesday.