March 14, 2020

Getting an abortion during a global pandemic is still possible in New Mexico

So far, COVID-19, a type of coronavirus, has not impacted abortion care in New Mexico, but at least one advocate said the virus’ spread likely will affect the future of it.

Whitney Phillips, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains vice president of communications and brand experience, told NM Political Report by email Friday that the organization expects to see problems to occur as the global pandemic continues.

“As states surrounding our region have been systematically shutting down access to reproductive health care, we’ve seen women traveling to New Mexico for care for some time now. While we haven’t begun to see the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic in our health centers, we believe it will happen,” Phillips wrote.

Rachel Lorenzo, a co-founder of Indigenous Women Rising, which provides an abortion fund for Native people in the U.S. and Canada, said that as far as traveling goes for abortion care, there is “no fear,” for Indigenous people, despite the shutting down of schools, public events and public officials advice not to travel. Lorenzo said IWR has not seen any change with either callers who reach out to the grassroots organization for help nor from abortion providers.

Joan Lamunyon Sanford, the executive director of New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, an organization which offers practical support for people traveling to Albuquerque for abortion care, said her group hasn’t seen any impacts from COVID-19 on people needing to travel for an abortion either.

But, she said the COVID-19 pandemic “will be another barrier for people who already have barriers.”

Because abortion carries shame and stigma, the pandemic will make it more difficult for people who need to travel to get an abortion explain to employers or other family members why that person needs to travel out of state, Lamunyon Sanford said.

Lorenzo said IWR is not a “one issue” organization and Lorenzo is watching closely as the pandemic continues how it may impact Native people across the country. Lorenzo is worried about Indian Health Services’ ability to be prepared adequately. IHS is perennially underfunded, according to the National Congress of American Indians.

“We also have to take into consideration information and support where we can on the full spectrum of health care,” Lorenzo said.