September 27, 2021

How the Texas abortion ban is affecting New Mexico abortion providers and funds, almost four weeks in

Alyssa Schukar/Center for Reproductive Rights

Abortion rights supporters organized by the Center for Reproductive Rights rally as the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in June Medical Services v. Russo on Wednesday, March 4, 2020 in Washington.

An abortion provider in New Mexico said the increase in patients from Texas will no longer be manageable if it continues in the coming weeks.

Adrienne Mansanares, chief experience officer for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, told NM Political Report that the group’s clinics are “not in crisis right now.”

But she said they are “in an unhealthy place” and it “won’t be manageable in the coming weeks if we continue to see the percentage increase from Texas.”

Mansanares said of the roughly 3,000 abortions that take place in New Mexico annually, Planned Parenthood provides about 700 of them.

“What we saw in the first week [of September] is what we typically see in a month,” she said.

She said there are about 55,000 abortions in Texas each year. Abortion clinics in New Mexico cannot continue to absorb the need from Texas abortion patients indefinitely, she said.

Planned Parenthood isn’t alone in seeing an increase.

The University of New Mexico Center for Reproductive Health has seen a doubling of abortion patients since September 1, Cindy Foster, UNM senior public affairs specialist, said.

The New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice told NM Political Report last week that the nonprofit abortion fund has served, in just a few weeks in September, nearly twice the number of patients from the entire month of September last year.

Related: NM-based abortion fund twice as busy as pre-pandemic

The coalition has served more patients in the first three weeks of September than it did for the entire month in 2019.

Brittany Defeo, program manager for the coalition, said Texas patients who are more than six weeks but less than 10 weeks pregnant now have to travel hundreds of miles from Texas to get to Albuquerque to take mifepristone and misoprostol, the two pills needed for a medication abortion, in the clinic. Abortion telehealth is available in New Mexico. It allows a pregnant person to take both pills at home. But the service, provided by Planned Parenthood clinics in New Mexico and some other states, is not available to patients in Texas.

In addition, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law last week SB4 which makes abortion telemedicine in Texas a felony offense after six weeks of gestation. That law goes into effect Dec. 2. The Food and Drug Administration approved the abortion medication for up to 10 weeks of gestation 21 years ago.

Defeo said a side effect of the Texas law is that anti-abortion protestors in Albuquerque have become emboldened. She said she has seen protestors take multiple photos of a car with Texas license plates in the parking lot of an Albuquerque abortion clinic even though obtaining an abortion in New Mexico is legal. Defeo called the photographing “one of their tactics to shame people further.”

She said the Texas law has added a “level of fear” for patients traveling from Texas. She said she spent all day last Monday “talking to some very freaked out people.”

Defeo said the coalition has also heard from abortion patients in other states such as California and Oklahoma who fear the Texas law might be applicable to them.

Joan Lamunyon Sanford, executive director of the coalition, said she has seen individuals offer their homes through social media to Texas abortion patients who need to travel to another state for an abortion.

But while the effort is well intentioned, Lamunyon Sanford said it could be dangerous. A Texas patient could wind up staying in the home of someone who tries to talk them out of an abortion, she said.

Who is most affected?

Mansanares said Black and Indigenous women are some of the hardest hit by the Texas law.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black and Indigenous women are significantly more likely to die in childbirth than white women, even in states with low pregnancy-related mortality and also among groups with higher levels of education. From 2007 to 2016, the CDC found that the pregnancy-related mortality rate for Black and Indigenous women over the age of 30 was four to five times higher than for white women.

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

Nicole Martin, co-founder of Indigenous Women Rising, which operates an abortion fund, said of the Texas law, “it’s not shocking to see white supremacy continue colonial violence.”

When asked how IWR Abortion Fund is handling the effects of the Texas law, she said “one day at a time.” She said IWR has brought on an additional person now to help with the call volume.

IWR is a grassroots organization and “will always be underfunded,” she said. IWR abortion fund, in conjunction with other abortion fund partners, held two fundraisers in mid-September alone, she said through email. 

“This is a reflection of tribal, state and federal negligence. Where community members seek help of grassroots organizers to get the healthcare they need. Often this extends further, outside the scope of healthcare, meeting people’s basic needs. Thanks to donations, we have been able to continue to help callers with practical support (gas, food, childcare, hotel if needed) as well as funding for abortion procedures,” she wrote.

Other ways of handling the volume of patients

Mansanares said that ways in which PP clinics prepared for the increase in patients after the Texas ban went into effect included shifting more New Mexico patients to telehealth where possible.

Mansanares said the Albuquerque PP clinic is relying on telemedicine when it can and has had to refer some patients to its Farmington clinic for some reproductive health services. The Farmington PP clinic does not offer abortion.

“In some cases, it’s more than an inconvenience,” she said.

She said some patients are experiencing longer wait times than normal. The clinic has expanded some hours in which patients can get certain services and it is providing different services on different days.

She said Texas abortion clinics set up appointments for patients in advance of the ban going into effect, so the Albuquerque PP clinic has been booked up for weeks.

She said the Albuquerque clinic is also seeing more patients driving up from southern New Mexico now that access to abortion care in El Paso has been shut off due to the Texas ban.

Mansanares said abortion providers felt really “abandoned” when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a request for an emergency stay on the Texas law at the end of August. The U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the U.S. Department of Justice would sue Texas after the Supreme Court refused to take action.

She said that abortion is an easy target politically, in part because of the shame and stigma that surrounds it. But one in four people obtain an abortion during their reproductive years.

“It’s forcing a narrative and political agenda on the backs of people who are seeking healthcare,” she said.

Mansanares told NM Political Report a story about a Texas patient who is the victim of domestic violence at home. The patient and the Albuquerque PP clinic had to coordinate so that the patient could get an abortion in Albuquerque and return to her home in Texas by a certain time so her abusive husband wouldn’t know.

“She was very fearful if she wasn’t home in time, there would be violent acts against herself and the kids. There was real sadness watching that patient drive away,” Mansanares said.