December 20, 2021

Texas abortion patients flew to Albuquerque for a one-day clinic visit

Matthew Reichbach

Protesters against abortion bans hold a sign that says, "Everyone loves someone whose had an abortion."

A New Mexico abortion fund provider planned a coordinated effort to fly in more than 10 Texas abortion patients for one day of abortion care at an Albuquerque clinic last week.

The effort is in response to Texas SB 8, which bans abortion after six weeks for people in Texas. New Mexico abortion providers have been stretched to accommodate the additional patients coming from Texas. Joan Lamunyon Sanford, executive director for New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, which staged what she called the group’s “first action,” said it was the beginning of the launch of Pastoral Care for Abortion Access.

A Texas chaplain and a case manager also traveled on the flight with the patients.

“It’s just more of what we’ve been doing, what we have to do as a faith organization,” she said.

New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice is one of a handful of abortion fund providers in the state. Abortion fund providers in New Mexico have also experienced increases in callers and need because of the Texas restriction.

Lamunyon Sanford said she could not be specific about how many patients traveled in on Friday due to safety and privacy concerns but she did say the patients flew from Dallas. Texas SB 8, which bans abortion after six weeks, encourages what many in the reproductive rights community call “vigilantes” because anyone can sue someone who “aids or abets” a person receiving an abortion in Texas.

She also said the staged action required considerable coordination with the Albuquerque clinic and the patients and others involved in Texas.

Lamunyon Sanford said that because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to place an injunction on the Texas law while reproductive rights groups try to fight it in court, the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice decided to launch the initiative.

Lamunyon Sanford said the coalition is hearkening back to the way a group of clergy used to operate before the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years ago. The clergy consultation group helped women find a safe abortion provider when abortions were still illegal in most states, including New Mexico.

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

Lamunyon Sanford said New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice has need for help with travel to receive an abortion “has continued to increase.”

“It’s at least three times what it was over the same months last year. It’s continued to increase. We’re almost at 400 callers for the year,” she said.

She said the majority of the callers are coming from Texas.

She said a Texas abortion fund assisted the patients who flew in with clinic fees. She said the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice has been fundraising for additional money to pay for the travel. The coalition also provided breakfast in Texas and another meal in Albuquerque for the patients.

“We’ve had some very generous donors but the main thing is, it’s a Band-Aid,” she said of the group’s efforts.

She said that, in addition to the Texas abortion ban, there are too many restrictions on abortion, including the Hyde Amendment, a federal regulation which prohibits the government from providing funds for abortions, which impacts many people throughout the country. Those include military personnel, federal employees who receive insurance through their employer and Native Americans who receive medical care through Indian Health Services.

Lamunyon Sanford said it’s really important for the religious left and religious progressives to “really step up” and “start countering these really harmful messages,” that come from religious groups who are anti-abortion.

“We haven’t been saying that loud enough. It’s better to say it with our actions and that was part of what we did,” she said.

Updated.