April 28, 2023

Reproductive justice newsletter: Edgewood seeks to ban abortion

Editor’s note: This is a copy of our monthly reproductive justice newsletter. If you want to subscribe to receive this free newsletter on the last Friday of every month, you can do so here.

Hello readers, 

After an eight-hour meeting that began Tuesday evening, the town of Edgewood passed an anti-abortion ordinance in the early morning hours of Wednesday by a vote of 4-1. Edgewood Commissioner Filandro Anaya said he voted against it because of “home rule” though he didn’t explain his vote further.

The move is the latest of a handful of individual towns and counties that, since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, have passed similar ordinances in New Mexico and elsewhere. One Edgewood commissioner, Jerry Powers, said during the meeting that attorneys advised that the town could face a lawsuit that could lead to a six-figure settlement as a result of the ordinance. 

The ordinance prohibits medication abortion from being sent through the mail. The towns and counties that have passed similar ordinances have argued that the Comstock Act is in effect, again, because the court overturned Roe last year. A legal scholar from the University of New Mexico talked to NM Political Report recently about why this theory is not a winning argument. Read that story here.

In addition, the Reproductive and Gender Affirming Health Care law will go into effect on July 1. It was designed to end such maneuvers by locales by prohibiting discrimination around abortion and gender-affirming care.

The Edgewood commissioners said Texas lawyer Jonathan Mitchell crafted the ordinance. It is so similar to the one that Eunice passed in recent months that an Edgewood commissioner asked that the word “Eunice” be removed from the ordinance and replace it with the word “Edgewood.”

Mitchell is credited with crafting the Texas bill that banned abortion at six weeks in 2021. The law was considered novel because it bypassed judicial review.  Two separate lawsuits to fight it went to the Supreme Court but neither impacted the law before the court overturned Roe.

The Edgewood ordinance also attempts to bypass judicial review because it is enforceable through individual citizens suing in civil court for $10,000 in damages, plus costs and attorney’s fees if abortion medication is sent through the mail.

There are no abortion providers located in Edgewood and, since most providers chose to operate in major cities, an abortion clinic is unlikely to consider it, with or without the ordinance. The founder of Whole Women’s Health, a provider that recently relocated to Albuquerque from Texas, told NM Political Report recently that she picked Albuquerque over a small city close to Texas because a large city is safer for both patients and staff. Read that story here.

Edgewood passed the ordinance even though New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez filed a stay request in March on similar ordinances passed in other municipalities and counties in New Mexico. The state Supreme Court granted that stay last month. Read that story here.

Edgewood’s effort to ban abortion medication comes at a time when the medication is under a national spotlight and was at the center of two separate lawsuits. Read that story here.

But many pro-abortion advocates say that the real purpose of such efforts are about shaming and confusing abortion patients. The founder of Whole Women’s Health told NM Political Report that she has seen a drop in requests for abortion medication just over the course of a few weeks, because of the recent court cases, which have made national headlines. Read that story here.

The fact that there were two separate lawsuits, one in Washington state and one in Texas, with opposite outcomes, led to fear and confusion. Read that story here. Texas federal district Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled against the FDA, saying that the federal agency needs to take the drug off the market. Read that story here. But Kacsmaryk gave the FDA time to appeal. The agency did so and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled differently, saying the FDA had to take the abortion drug mifepristone back to 2016 when the agency regulated it more tightly. That decision went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has paused any action but sent the case back to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which will hear oral argument next month. Read that story here.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham told the CBS Sunday morning show Face the Nation that court-ordered bans will lead to a national ban on the medication. Read that story here.  She signed the second of the two reproductive healthcare bills that passed the legislature this session, the Reproductive Health Providers Protection Act. It protects both providers and patients from out-of-state efforts to criminalize or penalize abortion through civil suits. Read that story here. She also signed the capital outlay bill, which allocates $10 million for a full-spectrum reproductive healthcare clinic to be built in Las Cruces. Read that story here.

Other reproductive justice news:

The Transgender Resource Center is expanding its services. A new housing unit won’t open until the end of 2024, but the nonprofit organization intends for this to be a first step toward sheltering transgender individuals in need. Read that story here.

President Joe Biden has proposed a new rule to Title IX to try to address the spate of state bans of transgender athletes in school sports. Advocates had varying responses to the proposal. Read that story here.

A former Clayton prison inmate filed a lawsuit this month, alleging sexual assault and abuse by prison staff. Read that story here.

The New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department announced this month a “historic” expansion of early childcare for New Mexico. Read that story here.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported on New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez’s reaction to the anti-abortion ordinances small towns and counties in New Mexico have been passing over the last six months.

The Albuquerque Journal reported on changes the Department of Health is making to both Medicaid coverage of abortion services and providing information to patients.

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-Susan Dunlap