April 16, 2020

New Mexico joined court filing supporting reproductive rights in Texas

Courtesy photo

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas signed onto an amicus brief earlier this month in support of a lawsuit launched by reproductive groups against the state of Texas.

Abortion rights groups sued Texas last month to reverse Gov. Greg Abbott’s restriction on abortion access during the public health emergency. The ban, which was supposed to last until late April, allowed an abortion only if the pregnant person’s life was in danger.

Some courts have sided with Texas and some have opined in favor of the abortion rights groups as it has ricocheted through the courts over the last few weeks. Earlier this week, a Texas appeals court allowed medication abortion to resume but not abortions that require a procedure.

The case has an impact on New Mexico.

Both Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, which operates a clinic in Albuquerque and a clinic in Santa Fe that provide abortion access, and the nonprofit group New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice have said they have seen increases in people seeking abortions coming from Texas since the ban went into place.

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

Earlier this month New York Attorney General Letitia James filed an amicus brief, or “friend of the court” document on behalf of the abortion rights groups. Balderas was one of 17 attorneys general who also signed the document.

Texas lawmakers cited the need to preserve personal protective equipment during the public health emergency as the reason to label abortion as “nonessential,” during the public health emergency. But in the amicus brief, the attorney generals argue that Texas could follow other states, including New Mexico, in slowing the spread of the virus and alleviate shortages of PPE and hospital beds. New Mexico inventoried its PPE, imposed limits on its distribution and has increased hospital capacity, according to the brief.

In addition, procedural abortion requires little PPE and no N95 masks, which is the primary PPE equipment in short supply due to the lack of federal infrastructure, the document states.  

Another reason to file the brief is because some students, workers and caregivers from New Mexico and the other states could be in Texas during the public health emergency and should be able to continue time-sensitive reproductive care, according to the document.

Abortion rights groups have said Texas’ ban, as well as bans placed by other states, are exploiting the public health emergency to ban abortion.

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

Balderas’ office did not respond to a request to comment.