April 5, 2023

Guv signs bill protecting abortion providers


Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is seen signing the Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare bill into law.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation that protects providers and patients from out-of-state efforts to criminalize or penalize through civil court the right to abortion in New Mexico.

SB 13, Reproductive Health Provider Protections, codifies into law Lujan Grisham’s executive order announced last summer, just days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade through its Dobbs decision. It also protects those providing and seeking gender-affirming care.

The new law, sponsored by state Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, carries penalties of $10,000 for a violation. It prohibits state agencies from participating in an out-of-state effort to seek information about or from abortion or gender-affirming care providers. It goes beyond Lujan Grisham’s executive order in that it prohibits public bodies from restricting access to abortion and gender-affirming health care.

Advocates say protecting both reproductive care and gender-affirming health care is increasingly important given the fact that most neighboring states have bans in place on abortion and have passed or have considered anti-trans laws.

The combination of SB 13 and Reproductive and Gender Affirming Health Care Act, a law that prevents public bodies from discriminating against reproductive or gender-affirming care, are considered part of a landmark legislative year for the LGBTQ community in New Mexico. These and other laws passed in this year’s Legislature make New Mexico a safe-haven state surrounded by other states hostile to gender-affirming health care.

Related:  2023 legislative session a landmark one for the LGBTQ bills

The two laws also further protect abortion access in New Mexico, where an increasing number of abortion care facilities have opened in the last year, though all of those clinics are in either Albuquerque or Las Cruces. Individuals living in rural parts of the state must still travel hundreds of miles to receive abortion care in either of the state’s two largest cities. In addition, wait times have increased due to the overwhelming need caused by the Dobbs decision leading to 21 states that have banned or restricted abortion care or where the sole clinic closed shop, according to reproductive research organization Guttmacher Institute

Lujan Grisham also signed SB 132, Sexually Transmitted Infection Prevention and Treatment, into law on Tuesday. The bill eliminates co-pays and cost sharing for STI testing, which advocates say enables treatment and prevention. Most who contract an STI are unaware they are carrying it due to a lack of symptoms. SB 132, sponsored by Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, also protects LGBTQ individuals seeking STI care by specifying that gender identity will not impact STI prevention or treatment.

Lujan Grisham is also expected to sign the capital outlay bill in the coming days. She has until noon on Friday to sign bills the Legislature passed in the final days of the legislative session. Bills she does not sign automatically are pocket vetoed.

The capital outlay bill, HB 505, includes Lujan Grisham’s $10 million pledge for a full-spectrum reproductive healthcare clinic to open in Las Cruces. Some House Republicans tried to argue against passage of the capital outlay bill because it contained that pledge, along with $1.2 billion state dollars to go toward an array of projects across the state.

Bill sponsor Derrick Lente, D-Sandia Pueblo, said at the time that the $10 million pledge amounted to 0.8 percent of the overall capital outlay budget.

Lujan Grisham held a press conference in Santa Fe on Wednesday to mark her signing SB 13 into law. For her, this was an important win.

“We are seeing the rights of individuals seeking critical health care services being quashed in states around the country,” she said through a news release. “These policies have real consequences that play out in the lives of American families, and New Mexico is a state that will stand up for the rights of all to access the health care services they need.”   

Lopez said other states are “turning back the clock on reproductive rights and gender-affirming care.”

“New Mexico continues to lead with compassion. Every person’s medical privacy deserves to be respected and protected,” she said through the release.

Heather Smith, policy manager for Bold Futures, said New Mexico “will remain a safe place for patients seeking gender-affirming care” and reproductive health care.

Heaven Lee Kim, reproductive justice coordinator for Tewa Women United, said through the release that people “deserve to make healthcare decisions that promote autonomy, dignity, respect and empowerment.”