Unlike 2019 when the New Mexico State Senate blocked repealing the 1969 abortion ban, more than half of the 2021 state Senate have signed on to cosponsor SB 10, this year’s effort.
SB 10, sponsored by state Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, is a bill that will run parallel to HB 7, sponsored by state House Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena, D-Mesilla. Co-sponsor and Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D- Santa Fe, said during a press conference Monday morning held by Respect New Mexico Women, a coalition of nonprofit organizations, that 25 state senators have signed onto the bill for the 2021 Legislature.
The Senate bill was scheduled to be heard in its first committee Monday afternoon.
“This shows how far we’ve come with this legislation,” Wirth said, alluding to the 2019 repeal effort which failed when eight state Senate Democrats sided with Republicans to defeat the bill. One of those Democrats died while in office and five of the others lost to more progressive Democrats in 2020 primaries, three of whom won in the general election. Democrats also gained three other seats previously held by Republicans.
Several women spoke during the press conference of the urgency of passing this bill. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett has called Roe v. Wade “barbaric,” and her confirmation in 2020 secured a 6-3 conservative majority bloc. Many reproductive rights experts have said Roe v. Wade will likely be overturned or completely gutted in the near future.
Former state Senate candidate Noreen Kelly, Diné (Navajo), of Farmington, spoke of when she had to make a decision to have an abortion due to potential complications for the fetus and life or death for her. She said she chose to see the pregnancy to term but said “every woman deserves to make the choice that is right for her.”
Krystal Curley, executive director of the nonprofit Forward Action Together and Diné (Navajo), likened the 1969 abortion ban to colonization.
“Women are capable of making decisions for themselves. Since colonization, our women have been targeted and our bodily autonomy taken away,” Curley said.
Cadena also spoke of sponsoring HB 7, which she filed Monday and which will run parallel to SB 10. Cadena said she comes to her Legislative work as a “person of faith.”
“I trust others to make their own decisions,” she said.
Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld, speaking on behalf of the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, said he is advocating for SB 10 and HB 7, and that it “returns to (women) their freedom of religion and removes fear of the state having the power” to make their health care decisions for them.
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice wrote a letter in support of the bill which 101 religious leaders across the state have signed.
“I have my own personal, moral view about abortion,” Rosenfeld said. “We can hold our own views and still allow women to make their own decisions.”
The bills, known jointly as the Respect New Mexico Women and Families Act, have been endorsed by more than 25 organizations, including the New Mexico Chapter of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the New Mexico Medical Society and the New Mexico Public Health Association.
According to the nonprofit organization Bold Futures, a poll of 1,700 New Mexico adults conducted by Latino Decisions in 2017 found that 77 percent of rural New Mexicans polled said individuals could hold their own moral views about abortion and still trust a woman and her family to make decisions about abortion for themselves. The poll found that 79 percent of Catholics in the state agreed with this statement.
A separate poll conducted for the nonprofit organizations Southwest Women’s Law Center, Latino Decisions and Forward Together in 2020 found that of 302 Native Americans polled, 72 percent said they can hold their own moral views about abortion and still trust a woman and her family to make abortion decisions for themselves.
Lopez said “every pregnancy is unique and complex,” and that “we need to respect those who make such a decision.”
State Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces, who is also a co-sponsor of the House bill, spoke of what it was like for women before the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade in 1974.
She said women and girls “suffered injury and death.”
Dr. Jocelyn Wu, an obstetrician and gynecologist resident in the state for the last four years, referenced the COVID-19 pandemic when talking about the importance of passing the bills.
“It’s very important, now more than ever, in the context of COVID-19, when more than 3,000 New Mexicans have died. It’s time to stop the politicization of healthcare, including abortion, so everyone can have the best chance of living a healthy and safe life,” she said.