November 5, 2020

Reproductive rights advocates: A really good night for abortion access

The seal of the state of New Mexico in the House

Reproductive rights advocates picked up six more votes in the state Senate.

Sarah Taylor-Nanista, executive director of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountain Action Fund, called it “a really good night for abortion access in New Mexico.”

Democrats picked up three seats in the state Senate, according to unofficial results. Those seats are state SD 10, which Democrat Katy Duhigg won over Republican Candace Gould. State SD 20, which Democrat Martin Hickey took, defeating the Republican candidate and taking a seat formerly held by Republican William Payne. The Democrats also won state SD 23, with Democrat Harold Pope Jr., who took the seat when he defeated Republican incumbent Sander Rue.

The Democrats also held onto state SD 9. That was held by Democrat John Sapien. Democrat Brenda McKenna held onto it over Republican John Stahlman Clark.

But additional reproductive rights gains came from three progressive Democrats winning state Senate seats on election night as well.

Progressive Democrat Siah Correa Hemphill defeated incumbent Democrat Gabriel Ramos in June and fended off Republican challenger James Williams for state SD 28. Progressive Democrat Carrie Hamblen won over long-time state Senator and Senate Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen in the June primary and also handily defeated Republican Charles Wendler for state SD 38. Progressive Democrat Leo Jaramillo beat both Democrat Richard Martinez in the June primary and won over Republican Diamantia Prado Storment and Libertarian Lee Weinland Tuesday for state SD 5.

Related: State Senate shifts left with progressive wins

Ramos, Papen and Martinez were all a part of the eight conservative Democrats who voted agaisnt HB 51, the bill to decriminalize abortion by repealing the 1969 abortion ban. The only two Democrats who sided with Republicans on HB 51 and who are still in the Legislature are state Senator George Muñoz and state Senator Pete Campos.

Taylor-Nanista said New Mexico voters “have spoken pretty clearly they want to get this abortion ban off the books.”

“We had some seats we had to flip and we had to work early and hard on the ground,” Taylor-Nanista said.

She said polling shows that New Mexico voters believe in a “woman’s right to choose,” and are “overwhelming pro-choice.”

Taylor-Nanista said that though the state House was never in question for reproductive rights, progressive Democrats picked up additional seats there as well. Another win for reproductive rights in the Rocky Mountain West is the defeat of Proposition 115 in Colorado. The proposition asked voters to decide if that state wanted to place a gestational ban on abortion. If Colorado voters had approved of the ban, New Mexico would have been the sole state in the region to not establish regulatory barriers to abortion. 

When people can’t get an abortion in one state, they often travel to states where abortion is still accessible. According to Vox, abortion clinics in New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada saw a 706 percent increase in patients traveling from Texas when Texas officials banned abortion for the first month of the pandemic.

Taylor-Nanista said Coloradans voting down the gestational ban referendum and New Mexico winning seats for “reproductive champions,” in the state Senate “really secures Colorado and New Mexico as safe haven states for families for access to abortion.”

“There’s a lot happening on the national level with the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court, getting the added boost of support in New Mexico and in Colorado absolutely strengthens these as safe haven states and that’s now more important than ever,” she said.

Related: Amy Coney Barrett confirmed to Supreme Court, as New Mexico’s senators vote against

Taylor-Nanista said other reproductive policies, such as reimbursement rates for abortion, ensuring comprehensive sex education in the public schools and expanding telehealth medicine, are all reproductive rights issues that advocates may be able to put more attention to now that repealing the antiquated New Mexico abortion law is less of a challenge.

Taylor-Nanista said that regardless of who becomes the next president of the U.S., “the majority of New Mexico believes in access to abortion.”

“I feel like we were very much vindicated,” she said. “We were running folks in districts for folks whose voices were not heard in the (2019) Legislature. I’m so grateful for the pro-choice champions who stepped up to run. It’s pretty exciting.”