January 28, 2023

New full-spectrum reproductive health care clinic in Las Cruces still in planning stages 

A new full-spectrum reproductive health clinic in Las Cruces is still, at least, a few years from becoming a reality, said Bold Futures Executive Director Charlene Bencomo.

Within a few months of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade through its Dobbs decision in late June, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced a second reproductive executive order, pledging $10 million toward a reproductive health care clinic in Doña Ana County.  The pledge will be in the capital outlay bill in the 2023 Legislative session, Lujan Grisham’s Press Secretary Nora Meyers Sackett, told NM Political Report

Bencomo said the clinic will be in Las Cruces and that it is still in the “fundraising stage.” She said that, in part, because the goal is for the clinic to be innovative in challenging health care norms, it’s hard to say at this point how long it will be before the clinic will be fully operational.

She said the partners, of which Bold Futures is one, who are behind the clinic want to “leave behind what’s not working in the healthcare system and build something new.”

The project has formed an advisory board made up of 13 members. A group of individuals interested in the project, including Bencomo, Adriann Barboa, representing Strong Families New Mexico, Dr. Eve Espey, representing the University of New Mexico Health and Sciences Center, Adrienne Mansanares, executive director of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and Gina Deblassie, health policy advisor for Lujan Grisham, gathered last week to discuss the project publicly.

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains told NM Political Report in an email that it is “working closely with the local partners in Las Cruces to envision and establish this health center, and we plan to be involved in a meaningful way now and in the future.”

The University of New Mexico said to NM Political Report in an email that UNM Health and Health Sciences is one of the entities collaborating on the clinic.

“Our role, at this point, has been in an advisory capacity to the state, but no decisions have made about the operationalization or direction of the clinic, that we are aware of. At this point, UNM Health and Health Sciences has no official role, other than advising, in these early planning stages,” UNM said.

Bencomo said some of the priorities for the clinic will be that everyone, from the person who greets patients coming into the door, to the medical personnel, will be trained in culturally sensitive, LGBTQ sensitive care. She said concerns such as an individuals’ personal pronouns and identity will be an important part of the care. People of color have statistically worse health care outcomes than white individuals and LGBTQ individuals suffer discrimination in health care systems. Bencomo said “one of our core values is to improve outcomes for Black, Indigenous, Latina and LGBTQ people.”

“We’re really focused on making sure that all people belong in this health care center,” Bencomo said.

Bencomo said the current plan is for the clinic to also function as a training facility for new medical personnel. She said how much abortion care the center will be able to provide – whether it will be medication abortion and procedural abortion – are questions that are still unclear for now. She said the advisory board also doesn’t have estimations yet of how many patients the clinic will be able to serve. 

Bencomo said the discussions right now are about how to build a clinic that can provide care despite gaps in insurance and Medicaid coverage. She said the clinic could be structured to pursue private and foundation grants in order to address some of those gaps.

She said talks about creating the clinic began before the court overturned Roe v. Wade, which has led abortion providers to consider New Mexico a safe haven state for abortion. Patients from Texas, in particular, have strained the abortion clinic system in New Mexico, even as new abortion clinics have opened in the last year.

Bencomo said that the fact that the new clinic will likely welcome patients from Texas “a bonus.” But she said the primary reason to open the clinic is because of long wait times individuals who live in New Mexico experience for reproductive care. She cited long wait times for pap smears as one issue that has been an ongoing issue for patients in New Mexico.

“We want to be a model for other places across the state and nation because what we have now isn’t working,” she said.

This story has been updated to clarify the advisory board.