June 6, 2023

Planned Parenthood clinics in New Mexico expand, offering medication abortion care at all locations

Susan Dunlap

Inside the Las Cruces Planned Parenthood clinic.

As New Mexico continues to be a state that offers legal abortion services, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains opened a new clinic in Las Cruces in May and expanded services at its Farmington location to include medication abortion.

Adrienne Mansanares, chief executive officer and president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said the new Las Cruces clinic began seeing patients and offering medication abortion up to 11 weeks the second week of May. The Farmington Planned Parenthood clinic began offering medication abortion a week later.

The Albuquerque Planned Parenthood, which has been planning a larger building for a few years, is expecting to open its new and expanded clinic in August, Mansanares, told NM Political Report.

In the current abortion landscape, safety is a constant consideration. Mansanares said one reason the organization chose the site for the new Las Cruces clinic was so that patients would have a private entrance to the clinic. She said the new Albuquerque site is so top secret, even she doesn’t know where it’s located. 

Mansanares said the Las Cruces clinic had been in the planning stages before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer in its Dobbs decision. But the expansion to include medication abortion at the Farmington clinic is a result of the increased need for abortion care since Roe fell, she said. She said the Farmington clinic used to refer medication abortion patients to PPRM clinic just over the Colorado state line in Cortez or Durango. But because of the increased demand, PPRM’s goal is to have all of its clinics providing medication abortion by the end of 2023.

She said 40 percent of abortion care patients in New Mexico now come from Texas, where abortion is banned. Because of extended wait times in New Mexico abortion clinics, PPRM is seeing a 50 percent increase of New Mexico abortion patients traveling to Colorado, she said.

Mansanares said the Las Cruces clinic has been offering virtual visits since December 2022. But supply chain issues slowed the process of getting the brick and mortar clinic fully up and running, she said.

Mansanares said PPRM has seen an increase in abortion care and a decrease in family planning visits and annual wellness exams. She said she thinks the cause could be the lingering effects of disruptions to medical care caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. She said some patients are still concerned about sitting in waiting rooms.

She said PPRM would like to get patients back on a reproductive and sexual healthcare routine. PPRM offers sliding scale costs if a patient lacks insurance. PPRM also has funds available if a patient needs help with paying for the abortion or to help with other, related needs, such as childcare or some travel costs for an abortion.

“You don’t have to prove anything, just express the financial need,” Mansanares said.

She said Las Cruces is a desert for reproductive and sexual health care but that the clinic became possible because Las Cruces’ demographics have begun to change. There are more patients who are likely to have private health insurance through an employer than previously. PPRM accepts Medicaid patients, as well as patients who are uninsured, but Medicaid reimbursements rates aren’t high enough for a clinic to stay open if the payer mix isn’t balanced, she said.

She said the community of Las Cruces was also welcoming, including a local broker who helped the organization find the brick and mortar location and a private contractor who helped navigate the supply chain issues as they prepared the medical office for their clinical needs.

She said moving into the new and expanded building in Albuquerque will allow PPRM to double its care. But, she said Planned Parenthood could expand further.

“Once that’s up and running, we’ll see what patient access needs are at that point,” she said.

If more care is needed, that could mean more clinics to open or other options, such as expanding the days and hours care is available at the current clinics.

Mansanares said that could include expanding to procedural abortion after 11 weeks at the Las Cruces clinic. She said that if the Las Cruces clinic expanded to provide procedural abortion, it would likely be two years before the clinic could be ready for that. But, she said 70 percent of PPRM abortion patients utilized medication abortion last year.

While the legal battle around the abortion medication mifepristone this past spring impacted some patients and at least one provider reported fewer patients requesting abortion medication in the immediate aftermath, Mansanares said PPRM clinics saw a drop in abortion medication requests “only during that one terrible sleepless week when there was a lot of confusion.”

But since the Supreme Court has placed an injunction so that mifepristone’s availability won’t be affected until the high court makes a further decision next year, PPRM clinics are “back to normal,” Mansanares said.

Even so, the organization is “scenario planning” in the event mifepristone is removed from the market in the future because of court decisions. Mansanares said the PPRM clinics would shift to a misoprostol-only medication abortion regime if mifepristone becomes no longer available. Misoprostol is currently the second drug of the two-pill regime. But Mansanares said misoprostol is only slightly less effective. She said it extends the time required for a medication abortion and requires four pills instead of two. It can also cause more cramping than the current method.

“It can be more challenging for some patients but it’s still a really safe option,” Mansanares said of a misoprostol-only medication abortion regime.

Mansanares said that if the courts force the U.S. FDA to remove mifepristone from the market it is “taking away provider’s options for better care for political reasons.” She called it “cruel and mean.”

The New York Times reviewed 147 published research articles that considered the safety and effectiveness of mifepristone and all concluded it is safe to terminate a pregnancy. The FDA approved its use 23 years ago.

Mansanares said PPRM is really excited to be a part of the Las Cruces community.

“We can’t wait to see what happens in the next year,” she said.