March 16, 2023

Guv signs bill protecting access to reproductive, gender-affirming care into law

The New Mexico State Capitol, or Roundhouse Wikicommons.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill to protect reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare into law on Thursday.

The Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare Act, which prohibits public bodies from discriminating against reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare, is one of two significant reproductive rights bills before the Legislature this year. This was the first to pass the Legislature and be signed into law. The other bill, the Reproductive Health Provider Protections, is currently waiting to be heard on the House floor.

“New Mexicans in every corner of our state deserve protections for their bodily autonomy and right to health care,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement after signing it into law. “I’m grateful for the hard work of the Legislature and community partners in getting this critical legislation across the finish line.”

The legislation comes as states across the country enact anti-abortion laws, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. States have also increasingly targeted health care for transgender individuals.

“My family and I know firsthand how it feels for a birth plan to become a lifesaving surgery in an instant. House Bill 7 removes unnecessary barriers and protects access to essential health care,” lead sponsor Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Santa Fe, said in a statement. “I am heartened that my daughters are growing up in a state that stands firm in our values, where we respect the complex decisions made by a person with their doctor.”

Last year, New Mexico repealed an antiquated law that would have made abortion illegal in the state. This new law would make sure that local governments cannot ban or place barriers in the way of access to reproductive care, including abortion, or gender-affirming care.

The Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare Act carries a penalty of a $5,000 fine and the possibility of both criminal and civil lawsuit. A plaintiff can also seek punitive damages or compensatory damages. The Attorney General, district attorneys or an individual can sue in the event of discrimination. 

The cities of Clovis and Hobbs and Roosevelt and Lincoln counties have passed ordinances that establish a barrier for abortion clinics to obtain a business license and have declared medication abortion sent through the mail an illegal act. This law ensures that those local ordinances cannot be enforced.

“In New Mexico we value the freedom and dignity of making your own personal decision about reproductive and gender-affirming health care,” Ellie Rushforth, ACLU-NM managing reproductive rights and gender equity attorney, said in a statement. “Now more than ever it is critical that New Mexicans and our neighbors have access to the full spectrum of health care in every corner of our state. We thank the Governor for supporting and signing HB 7 into law. This is lifesaving legislation.”

Update: Added quotes from Lujan Grisham, Serrato and Rushforth.