September 23, 2021

New Mexico Democrats in Congress sign onto amicus brief supporting Roe v. Wade

Laura Paskus

The U.S. Supreme Court.

The New Mexico Democratic Congressional delegation signed onto an amicus brief urging  the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Roe v. Wade in the Mississippi abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

That case will be heard December 1. But the court has traditionally made its ruling on abortion cases at the end of the term in late June or early July.

The state of Mississippi, in its case against the sole clinic that provides abortions in that state, has asked the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe v. Wade. Mississippi lawmakers passed an unconstitutional law in 2018 making abortion at 15 weeks gestation illegal in that state. The only abortion clinic in Mississippi, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, offered abortion up to 16 weeks.

Related: What’s ahead for the U.S. Supreme Court this year for reproductive health

In the Senate, 48 U.S. Senators signed, including both New Mexico Democratic Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján. In the House, 188 Representatives signed, including New Mexico Representatives Melanie Stansbury and Teresa Leger Fernández, also both Democrats.

U.S. Congressional Democratic leadership Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi also signed the letter.

The amicus brief, or “friend of the court” filing, says the signatories have a particular interest in the court’s adherence to the principle of determining litigation based on legal precedent. It points out that nothing has changed since Roe v. Wade except the political makeup of the court.  

Three of the court’s justices are appointees of former President Donald Trump, who opposed abortion.

The brief says that the Mississippi state legislature “intentionally flouted the constitutional boundaries recognized by this court.”

The brief says the legislators who signed believe the “federal courts must act as a check when state legislatures enact unnecessary, politically targeted, and intentionally unconstitutional legislation for pretextual reasons.”

The brief also says that low income people of color will be the most affected if Roe v. Wade is overturned. The maternal mortality rate has more than doubled over the last 30 years in the United States with Black women experiencing maternal death at three to four times higher than white women.

The brief says that “to rule otherwise would be to sanction a corrosive dynamic that has come to pervade numerous state legislatures. In recent years, state legislators—with the backing of anti-choice interest groups and emboldened by a change in the composition of this court—have enacted increasingly onerous restrictions and prohibitions on abortion for the state purpose of inducing this court to jettison its long standing and well-settled constitutional precedents. Such tactics damage public confidence not only in the integrity of the state legislatures, but also in the force and authority of this court’s constitutional pronouncements.”

New Mexico is one of the few states to pass pro-abortion rights legislation this year with the Respect New Mexico Women and Families Act, or SB 10. The law eliminated old language from 1969 in the state’s criminal code that banned abortion in this state with few exceptions.

Related: New Mexico one of few states to pass pro-reproductive rights legislation this year
The U.S. House will vote on Friday on a reproductive rights bill, the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify Roe v. Wade if passed by both Congressional chambers. While likely to pass the House, it is considered unlikely to pass the Senate, according to reproductive rights advocates. Both Stansbury and Leger Fernández are co-sponsors, along with 212 other members.