April 11, 2020

Group holds anti-abortion protest despite Guv’s stay-at-home order

A group of anti-abortion protestors gathered Friday in front of University of New Mexico Center for Reproductive Health in defiance of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s stay-at-home orders.

Lujan Grisham has issued stay-at-home orders to protect residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials have said that without a vaccine, the only way to protect lives is to stay at home and avoid potentially spreading the disease. The public health orders also state that groups of more than five cannot congregate and residents are encouraged to wear masks when they do venture out for groceries or other essentials.

All of these regulations were violated, according to Marianna Anaya, communications director for ProgressNow New Mexico*.

Anaya said she drove by at about 12:20 and she saw about 12 people, including four children, standing on the sidewalk on Yale Boulevard. She said a few people were standing apart but not all of the adults were practicing social distancing. 

“People are dying from this virus and anti-abortion extremists are not only endangering themselves but they are endangering the children they bring with them and the rest of the public every time they step a foot outside,” Anaya told NM Political Report. “This is about power and control, it’s not about morality and religion. They are exploiting a global pandemic to harass women. It’s a slap in the face to every New Mexican trying to keep their families safe right now.”

Dan Jiron, a media relations officer for the University of New Mexico, said that the Albuquerque Police Department were called and responded. The Albuquerque Police Department did not respond to an email or phone call.

Jiron said the university’s police were not called. He said the protestors were on city property, not on university property, which put them outside the university safety officers’ jurisdiction.

Jiron emailed a statement from the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center.

“UNM Health has policies and procedures in place for employee safety. We appreciate law enforcement who responded to this situation,” the emailed statement said.

A person at the University of New Mexico Center for Reproductive Health (UNMCRH) would not give their name, but said the center was aware the protest was coming and that the center was prepared but declined to answer any further questions.

Anaya said she saw security stationed at the entrance to the building.

The anti-abortion group Abortion Free New Mexico called the protest, calling it a “Faith to Action Friday.” According to the groups’ website, protestors were asked to gather from noon to 1 p.m. to protest the fact that abortion is considered an essential service in New Mexico.

The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have all said that abortion should remain an essential service during the pandemic.

Related: Republicans in Congress target Planned Parenthood with stimulus bill, with potentially larger impacts

According to Abortion Free New Mexico, Fr. Stephen Imbarrato, director of Life Ministries U.S., was also expected to join them. 

Imbarrato did not respond to a message but Tara Shaver, spokesperson for Abortion Free New Mexico, emailed a statement from her group.

“If Governor Lujan Grisham is going to insist that abortion services are essential in New Mexico, our prayer and protest presence outside of these facilities is equally essential,” she wrote. “Every life has value, and if she refuses to protect the lives of the smallest New Mexicans, those in their mothers’ wombs, then we have an obligation and the right afforded by the U.S. Constitution to do so. Our right to the freedom of speech and to peaceably assemble shall not be infringed upon.”

But health care workers have taken to social media to emphasize the importance of staying home and how flaunting the stay at home rules ultimately hurts them and their families, in addition to contributing to the spread of the virus.

The Abortion Free New Mexico Facebook page says that those seeking an abortion from out of state are violating Lujan Grisham’s order to self-isolate for 14 days. But, Lujan Grisham’s order is specific to flying, not driving. The group’s Facebook page shows photos of cars in a parking lot that have out-of-state license plates.

In addition, the order specifically states that people can still go to medical appointments while self-isolating. Joan Lamunyon Sanford, executive director of New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, which helps those seeking an abortion from outside the state, has said that the people her group has served go out for the abortion care but otherwise are “really isolated,” in their motel rooms. New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice provides those visitors food and snacks during their self-quarantined stays in the motel. 

Anaya said abortion care has always been an essential service.

“It’s that simple,” Anaya said. 

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