September 16, 2021

New Mexico AG joins suit to fight Texas six-week gestational abortion ban

Courtesy photo

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas joined attorneys general from 22 other states and the District of Columbia on an amicus brief in support of the U.S. Attorney General’s suit against Texas’ six-week gestation ban.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is the lead on the brief but Balderas spoke along with Healey during a press conference held virtually on Wednesday to discuss the amicus brief and the Texas law that went into effect at the beginning of September. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced last week the U.S. Department of Justice is suing Texas to stop the unconstitutional six-week gestational abortion ban. The attorney’s general amicus brief is a document that provides support to the DOJ’s lawsuit.

Calling the Texas six-week gestational ban “another reckless attempt at Texas restricting the rights of women and families across this country,” Balderas cited the various ways the Texas law is harming individuals living in New Mexico. He said that New Mexico-based clinics perform about 3,000 abortions a year while in Texas clinics perform between 50,000 to 60,000 abortions a year.

He said New Mexico “does not have the infrastructure” and that “there is no way the state of New Mexico can absorb the level of demand for medical service” the Texas law is now causing for New Mexico clinics.

“I can state that this will have a negative impact on the well-being of the state of New Mexico,” Balderas said.

Balderas also cited individuals who live in southern New Mexico who might have traveled to El Paso for abortion services but now must travel several hours to a clinic in Albuquerque.

“Now because of the legal ban they must travel not 50 minutes but three, four or five hours within my own state to receive those services,” he said.

The amicus brief states that the states that filed do not want their own residents who assist individuals in obtaining abortion care in Texas to face the threat of liability or that individuals and organizations in other states do not become targets of SB 8.

The Texas law is enforced by individuals who sue a person or entity if the plaintiff believes they aided a patient in obtaining an abortion in Texas after six weeks of gestation. Such a lawsuit can result in at least a $10,000 civil recovery.

Healey called the Texas law “morally repugnant and flagrantly unconstitutional.” She also said that the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to consider an emergency request to block the law just before it went into effect “a really dark history.”

Balderas called the issue a “public safety crisis as well as a constitutional crisis.”

When asked if New Mexico residents or entities could be sued for helping a Texas-based patient receive an abortion in New Mexico, Balderas said that his office would defend any health care providers who were “being attacked in any way, we will defend those state interests.” He also said his office “will not enforce any illegal laws that will come between health care providers and patients.”

Balderas also referred to the Texas gestational ban as a “ridiculous law.”

Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, also spoke during the press conference. She said that the threat to doctors and nurses for providing “basic health care information and care is unacceptable and for patients, it’s devastating.”

She said that patients who are denied care are four times more likely to fall below the federal poverty level and are also more likely to stay with an abusive partner and more likely to face pregnancy complications. She said Texas politicians should instead invest in state-supported Medicaid and other systems of care for birthing patients.

“Black, Latina, immigrant, Indigenous, LGBTQ and people in rural areas already face immense barriers to healthcare and they will suffer the most,” she said.

In addition to New Mexico and Massachusetts, the other states that signed onto the amicus brief are California, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.