July 8, 2022

Abortion providers make plans to open clinics and expand care in New Mexico

Hannah Grover

Whole Women’s Health, an abortion provider in Texas as well as other states, is trying to raise more than $700,000 to move to New Mexico.

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade last month, some abortion providers in states hostile to reproductive care have begun making plans to relocate to New Mexico, where abortion remains safe and legal. Whole Women’s Health had to shut down its four remaining clinics due to a Texas trigger ban that the state is fighting to implement since the nation’s high court overturned the 1973 landmark decision. This week the organization announced it is making plans to open a new clinic in a border town in New Mexico.

Andrea Ferrigno, corporate vice president for Whole Women’s Health, told NM Political Report that two Whole Women’s Health providers already licensed and working in the state have been providing virtual abortion care for patients both in and out of state for nearly a year. Ferrigno declined to say where the two providers are located within New Mexico due to security reasons. She said she didn’t want to offer too many specifics about the potential clinic because of “unwanted attention.”

Other providers have said publicly that they intend to relocate to New Mexico. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi’s sole abortion provider, closed Wednesday and intends move to Las Cruces. A California-based provider called Choix has expanded its telehealth operation to include telehealth medical abortion care in New Mexico.

The nonprofit reproductive advocacy organization Bold Futures, already based in New Mexico, has said it is planning a reproductive care clinic that will include abortion care and is expected to open in Las Cruces. Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains has also said it wants to expand care in the state. 

Ferrigno said the organization’s two New Mexico-based providers heard from local patients that more in-person clinic care is needed. She said Whole Women’s Health is working with a realtor and actively looking for a facility. She said Whole Women’s Health’s ideal timeline would be to open a new clinic in New Mexico in August.

She said the services Whole Women’s Health will include will be family planning and obstetrics and gynecological care and miscarriage management, as well as medication abortion and procedural abortion.

Reproductive health care advocates have said that low-income pregnant people, particularly from marginalized communities, have long faced additional barriers to healthcare, including abortion. Abortion services are currently not available in New Mexico’s rural communities. Abortion is also not available on Tribal land due to federal policy.

In addition, New Mexico abortion clinics are expected to face a crisis after clinics in neighboring states hostile to reproductive care shut down. Arizona’s attorney general recently announced he plans to enforce an anti-abortion law that predates statehood and will file to remove a court injunction that currently prohibits it.

Clinics in Texas stopped providing abortion services after the court’s ruling at the end of June. Texas legislators have vowed to try to pass legislation next year that would prevent Texas abortion patients from crossing state lines to seek care.

Oklahoma banned all abortions with few exceptions before the court’s ruling.

As of July 1, 22 states have laws that could restrict abortion, according to the reproductive research organization, the Guttmacher Institute.

Ferrigno said when the news broke last month that the court had overturned Roe, “it was devastating.”

“We’re Texans. We’ve been offering abortion care here for almost 20 years. We know. It’s been a constant battle. A constant fight for our rights. We knew it would not be easy but we hoped the Supreme Court would look at the evidence over the last decade and other legal cases that prove the importance of access,” she said.

She said Texas abortion clinics see the impact of the bans most on minorities, Latinos, Hispanics and people of color, particularly when they live in poverty. Those abortion patients are the “ones who pay the consequences” of the Supreme Court decision the most, she said.

“It’s incredibly heartbreaking,” she said.

Currently, Whole Women’s Health offers referrals to Texas patients since the clinic can no longer provide care. Ferrigno said the organization is pursuing large donors and grantmakers as well as individual small donors in an effort to raise the money to relocate. She said the organization hopes to hire a provider already working in New Mexico when the new clinic opens.

Ferrigno said the court’s overturning of Roe has created “a lot of confusion, a lot of fear.”

She said abortion patients call the Texas clinics and don’t understand how to get an abortion and if it’s illegal everywhere. She said Whole Women’s Health has encountered “a lot of desperation.”

“There’s so many added layers of worry in addition to what they’re already carrying, what’s best for their family, not losing employment, navigating life,” she said, adding that it is “very stressful.”

Bold Futures, in partnership with other New Mexico-based reproductive and advocacy organizations, have issued a guide on reproductive care for abortion clinics considering relocating. The guide emphasizes the need for trauma-informed, patient-centered, inclusive care that considers all reproductive health needs in New Mexico.

Bold Futures said in a statement that access to reproductive healthcare is “critical.”

“Care without strategic planning and thoughtful consideration for those who will be served is unacceptable. Our communities deserve quality care that is affirming, trauma-informed and culturally congruent with the New Mexican values that we have worked so hard to protect,” according to the statement.