While abortion access at the national level has come under greater assault in recent years, some nonprofit groups on the front lines for reproductive healthcare are providing what is known as “TelAbortions” to New Mexicans through a study. A TelAbortion has the potential to simplify the process of terminating a pregnancy and some advocates say it could be the way of the future. To qualify, the patient needs to be less than 10 weeks pregnant. Through video conferencing over an electronic device, the patient speaks with the study’s health provider. After establishing that the patient is less than 10 weeks pregnant, the patient receives the two pills necessary – mifepristone and misoprostol – through the mail.
When New Mexico women are in a crisis and need to terminate a pregnancy, all too often they must drive hundreds of miles to reach a clinic that provides abortion. Clinics that provide abortions are only located in or around the three largest cities in New Mexico. While some obstetric and gynecological doctors as well as some general practitioners will perform an abortion privately, the vast majority of abortions are provided in specific clinics, Dr. Eve Espey, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, told NM Political Report.
When women seek an abortion, they are often in a time of crisis, she said. With more than one million women living in New Mexico, such limited resources for abortion services impacts a significant portion of women who are child-bearing age in the state. The problem disproportionately affects low-income women, rural women and women of color, Espey said.
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has served as a swing vote in the U.S. Supreme Court on some issues including the decision not to overturn Roe v. Wade, but a new, more conservative replacement could change that. If the ruling is overturned, each state would decide on the legality of abortion. New Mexico is one of ten states where a pre-Roe law means abortion would be illegal if the landmark case were overturned. Overturning Roe v. Wade has been a conservative goal for decades and Students for Life President Kristan Hawkins told NPR this week that Kennedy’s retirement pushed them on the brink of success. “In New Mexico, we have an old statute on the books from pre Roe v. Wade,” explained State Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces.
Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains says they received enough donations to keep its Farmington health center open. Five months ago, the organization announced the Farmington location would be one of three in the state to close by this fall. “We cannot begin to express our gratitude to the people of Farmington and their commitment to reproductive health care access in New Mexico,” Vicki Cowart, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains said in a statement. “We know how important access to reproductive care is for our rural communities, and today we celebrate being able to keep this health center open, thus ensuring access to care for women, men, and young people in Farmington and the surrounding areas.”
The health center does not perform surgical abortions. In May, the organization announced it needed to close three health centers in New Mexico, including locations in Farmington, Albuquerque and Rio Rancho.
The Planned Parenthood affiliate that represents New Mexico and other Rocky Mountain states is joining a federal lawsuit against an organization that distributed videos in an attempt to discredit the women’s healthcare provider. Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast announced on Wednesday they would join various Planned Parenthood affiliates from California and Planned Parenthood Federation of America in a federal civil lawsuit against the Center for Medical Progress and others over videos that, when edited, appeared to show Planned Parenthood workers agreeing to sell fetal tissue. Vicki Cowart, the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, cited the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting. “Words have an impact. You can’t implicitly condone violence without consequence,” Cowart said.
When Philip Leahy, John Rice and Christina Garza come to protest an Albuquerque clinic that provides abortions, they stand on a sidewalk across the parking lot. “We try to be here all the days that they are open,” Leahy said of Southwestern Women’s Options, which is open on weekdays during normal business hours. Clad with a scarf, a winter coat and gloves, Leahy explained on a recent chilly weekday that the clinic’s parking lot is private property, and thus he and his fellow protesters are not allowed to step on it. This keeps him at a distance from the clinic’s front door where patients enter. So his group, Sidewalk Advocates for Life, which opposes abortion, instead tries to wave over women entering the clinic to talk with them.
After a deadly attack last week that left three dead and nine wounded, Planned Parenthood will rebuild and reopen its Colorado Springs office. Vicki Cowart, CEO and president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, made the pledge Wednesday evening in Albuquerque at a vigil for the women’s health provider. “We will rebuild that building, rebuild the lives of the folks who went through that terrible afternoon,” Cowart told supporters at Albuquerque’s First Congregational United Church of Christ. “And we will open, we will continue to provide wonderful life-saving, high quality reproductive health care to our community there and across our region and across our country no matter what.”
Cowart oversees a region of Planned Parenthood clinics that includes both Colorado and New Mexico. In an interview, Cowart said she wasn’t sure how long rebuilding the location would take.
A crowd of people packed the pews at Albuquerque’s First Congregational United Church of Christ Wednesday night to support Planned Parenthood after a gunman shot and killed three people and wounded nine others at a Colorado Springs clinic last week. The event included a candlelight vigil inside the church remembering the three who died during the Planned Parenthood shooting. Among those who spoke were Vicki Cowart, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, and the Rev. Sue Joiner. Related: Planned Parenthood will rebuild attacked clinic
“We do not have to agree on how we move forward, but we must agree that we will do it without violence,” Joiner said. Reading from prepared statements by the leader of her denomination, Joiner called the Colorado Springs shooting “the byproduct of a collective need to shame women who seek legal, necessary, medical options when considering their reproductive health.”
Robert Dear, the shooter, reportedly said “no more baby parts” to law enforcement after the shooting.
At least one abortion rights group in New Mexico is calling for anti-abortion activists to take some responsibility for the shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood this weekend, while anti-abortion activists say they decry the violence. Joan Lamunyon Sanford, executive director of New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, told NM Political Report that Protest ABQ and other anti-abortion activists should take at least some responsibility for the attitude that she thinks led to the shooting. She said problems arise “when you use rhetoric that equates abortion with murder.”
Following news reports of the shooting in Colorado Springs, Protest ABQ released a statement condemning the attacks. “Our prayers go out to all those involved today in the senseless shooting at the Planned Parenthood located in Colorado Springs, Colorado,” the statement read. “We continue to pray for the law enforcement officers and all of those who were shot and for the safety of those currently responding to this ongoing situation.”
Tara Shaver, a cofounder of Protest ABQ, told NM Political Report her group will not change their activities based on what happened in Colorado.