January 20, 2020

New billboards aim to start conversation about abortion access

A grassroots advocacy group launched a billboard campaign Monday to promote keeping abortion safe and legal and to spark conversations about abortion access.

The two billboards, from ProgressNow New Mexico*, will be on I-25 near the Budagher Drive exit, between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The signs face both north and south so drivers traveling in either direction will be able to see the message.

The two highway billboards both say, “Rape is about power and control. So are abortion bans.”

The second billboard will be on the side of a truck driving around the state Capitol building and downtown Santa Fe Tuesday. On one side of the truck, the billboard will say, “Voted against abortion access? We didn’t forget.” The opposite side of the roving signage will say, “Keep abortion safe and legal.”

ProgressNow New Mexico supported the effort last year to repeal the state’s law that would effectively ban abortion in the state of New Mexico if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. As long as Roe v. Wade remains in place, New Mexico’s decades old ban stays dormant. But Marianna Anaya, communications director for ProgressNow, said that with the high court hearing a Louisiana case on abortion access in March, “we don’t have time.” She said there is potential for the landmark 1972 decision to be changed or overturned completely as early as this spring.

Roe v. Wade is being chipped away at,” Anaya said.

Anaya equates the efforts of anti-abortion foes to overturn abortion laws with the same control and abuse of power of perpetrators of sexual assault, rape and domestic violence.

“For any of us who are survivors of rape, sexual assault and domestic violence, we’ve been told over and over that these forms of abuse take place because the abuser wants to assert power and control over our bodies,” Anaya told NM Political Report. “So in the same vein we know that politicians and anti-abortion extremists are trying to assert control over our bodies by banning abortion.”

Abortion rights activists say that since President Donald Trump appointed Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, anti-abortion groups have been working relentlessly to try to seize what they see as an opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade by launching highly restrictive gestational bans on abortion in several states. The anti-abortion groups and lawmakers openly hope the new regulations, which have all been challenged in court, will be heard at the highest court and reverse Roe v. Wade.

If that happens, the abortion ban still on the books in New Mexico would go into effect and would block abortion access in all cases, including rape and incest. New Mexico, which is currently one of the least restrictive states for abortion access in the country, would have one of the most restrictive laws in the land.

Abortion rights advocates say that even rural New Mexicans, who are often thought of as conservative and in favor of restricting or abolishing abortion, support a woman’s right to make her own decisions about abortion.

According to the nonprofit advocacy group Forward Together, 74 percent of rural New Mexicans are in favor of women having the right to make their own abortion decisions.

The latest Pew Research Center survey on the issue found 61 percent of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

ProgressNow New Mexico hopes that the billboards will mobilize citizens who support reproductive freedom.

“These billboards are part of our work to mobilize the overwhelming majority of New Mexicans who support the right of all people to access reproductive health care. 2020 will be a decisive year for the future of abortion access, and it’s critical that we defeat the agenda of anti-abortion groups and lawmakers and expose them for what they are — extreme, violent and cruel,” Anaya wrote in a statement.

Anaya said the advocacy organization is prepared to “carry out this campaign as long as it takes in order to repeal the (New Mexico) abortion ban.”

So far, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has not added another attempt at repeal of the old ban to her list of legislative priorities yet. However, she can add issues that can be discussed by the Legislature at any time during the legislative session.

* ProgressNow New Mexico helps find funding for NM Political Report. No one at ProgressNow NM has any say in editorial decisions by NM Political Report, including the decision to use this story.