A bill that advocates say protects pregnant workers passed unanimously through its first committee Tuesday with no opposition. HB 25, called the Pregnant Worker Accommodation Bill, went before the House Labor, Veteran, Military Affairs Committee. This isn’t the first time House committee members have heard this bill. Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, sponsored the bill in past sessions, but she said the bill introduced during the 2019 session went through negotiation with the Hospitality Association and New Mexico Counties, an association that represents all 33 counties, and that took ten days. It then died on the House floor.
The White House announced Thursday it is halting the practice of what it calls “birth tourism” but New Mexico reproductive justice advocates call the new rule discriminatory and say it puts migrants at risk. As of Friday the State Department stopped issuing temporary visitor visas to nonresidents who enter in order to give birth on American soil. The practice enables the baby to be a U.S. citizen. Although it’s not known how many people engage in birth tourism, some conservatives consider it a “loophole” in immigration policy. But reproductive justice advocates call foul and say it’s another tool to demonize immigrants in general, and women immigrants and pregnant immigrants in particular.
The 2020 legislative session kicked off with a traveling billboard driving around the Capitol building reminding citizens and lawmakers of the 2019 attempt to repeal New Mexico’s decades old abortion ban. But so far, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has not signaled that she wants the legislature to take another shot at trying to repeal the old ban during the 30-day session. There were, however, several other pre-filed bills and one issue that has not been filed yet as a bill that pertains to reproductive justice which Lujan Grisham put on her call for the session. Increasing penalties for human trafficking
No legislator has filed a bill on increased criminal penalties for human trafficking, but Lujan Grisham signaled she wants a bill on the issue when she announced her priorities ahead of the session. Governor’s Office Press Secretary Nora Meyers Sackett said a bill will be introduced soon.
A grassroots advocacy group launched a billboard campaign Monday to promote keeping abortion safe and legal and to spark conversations about abortion access. The two billboards, from ProgressNow New Mexico*, will be on I-25 near the Budagher Drive exit, between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The signs face both north and south so drivers traveling in either direction will be able to see the message. The two highway billboards both say, “Rape is about power and control. So are abortion bans.”
The second billboard will be on the side of a truck driving around the state Capitol building and downtown Santa Fe Tuesday.
Eager for change, a new organization called the New Mexico Indigenous Women’s Resource Council symbolically tied a ribbon Saturday in Gallup to launch a group dedicated to advocacy and helping people who are marginalized within indigenous communities. The council’s board president, Sonlatsa Jim-Martin, Navajo-Modoc, said the group will focus on women and girls in indigenous communities who experience domestic violence, helping indigenous people who are LGBTQ, and working on causes such as missing and murdered indigenous women. Jim-Martin said the number of missing and murdered women and girls from indigenous communities is alarming. She said the problem is worse than the numbers officially reported. “We know we can say it’s happening every day,” Jim-Martin told NM Political Report.
New Mexico sued Johnson & Johnson and Valeant Pharmaceuticals over talc-based products it allegedly knew were laced with contamination while specifically marketing those products to African-American and Hispanic New Mexican women and children. Attorney General Hector Balderas filed the suit Friday in the First Judicial District Court of New Mexico. Although thousands of individuals have sued Johnson & Johnson over the manufacture and sale of talc products that allegedly contain toxic substances, New Mexico is one of the first states to seek punitive damages through legal action. New Mexico alleges that “to grow the franchise,” Johnson & Johnson specifically targeted African-American and Hispanic women and children because the company’s studies showed that those two ethnicities used Johnson’s Baby Powder products at higher rates. New Mexico’s brief states that this disproportionately affects New Mexico citizens because 48 percent of the population is made up of African-American and Hispanic people.
Some hope Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s new executive order giving state employees 12 weeks off to care for a new child is a harbinger for the passage of a bill that would bring that benefit – and more – to all New Mexico employees. Lujan Grisham made her announcement earlier this week. Starting with the first day of 2020, all state employees are now eligible to take up to 12 weeks of paid time off to care for a new child, whether a birth or an adoption. Leave must be taken within the first six months following the child’s arrival. If both parents work for the state, both parents are eligible for the leave.
Although more popular in urban areas, doulas have the potential to improve birth outcomes for rural, low-income women, say advocates. The role of doula is distinctly different from midwifery because a midwife is a licensed medical professional who is a part of the birth process. A doula, on the other hand, could be thought of more like a professional mom who has a lot of experience in the delivery room and is there to help both parents. Doulas are able to help new parents understand what is normal through the birthing process and can offer information before, during and after the birth, said Miyoko Inase, an Albuquerque-based doula. Doulas can be in the birthing room to help mom with her breathing, massage and help with pain management.
Former Western New Mexico University coach and dean Jim Smith responded to concerns about an anecdote he told during the university’s graduation ceremony last Friday. The anecdote appears to imply that a sexual assault may have occurred on campus decades ago. Smith told the story in the form of a joke. But, Smith denied the story was a joke. He called it “a fact.”
A number of women spoke out after a revered former athletic coach from Western New Mexico University told an anecdote during the school’s fall 2019 commencement that involved a possible rape – and meant the story to be funny. Coach James “Jim” Smith gave WNMU’s keynote speech Friday. During his speech, which is not available online, he reportedly told a story about finding girls in a boy’s dorm room decades ago and, as a dean at the time, he said he lectured the young men about breaking the rules. A story about the commencement, which included snippets of Smith’s speech, appeared in the Silver City Daily Press. “And I was really giving the one student a good speech,” the Daily Press reported Smith as saying.