What the Violence Against Women Act doesn’t do

The 2022 federal reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act has been hailed as good news, but there are problems it doesn’t solve. President Joe Biden signed VAWA reauthorization earlier this spring. The last time U.S. Congress reauthorized it was in 2013. It is supposed to be reauthorized every five years. It provides millions of dollars to every state to help fund services to victims of gender-based violence.

New Mexico’s legal desert affects victims of violence

While the federal reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act will ensure services for victims for several more years, victims will likely still struggle due to New Mexico’s “legal desert.”

VAWA] provides funding to state and local programming and agencies to help those who suffer gender-based violence. The U.S. Congress last reauthorized it in 2013. President Joe Biden signed the 2022 reauthorization this spring and it is expected to help with issues such as sex trafficking, missing and murdered Indigenous women and relatives, sexual assault and housing and it expands programming to include the LGBTQIA+ community. Related: What the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization means for the LGBTQ community

New Mexico ranks as seventh in the nation for the rate of sexual assault. Alexandria Taylor, director of Sexual Assault Services at the New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, said one factor in what she has called a “crisis” is New Mexico’s legal desert. The majority of victims don’t report but for those who do, Taylor told NM Political Report that 93 percent of the cases are dismissed.

What the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization means for the LGBTQ community 

Expansions in the Violence Against Women Act, signed by President Joe Biden this spring, recognize the LGBTQ community for the first time. Initially enacted in 1994, VAWA improves responses to gender-based violence through federal dollars to various state and local programs and agencies, including the courts. Congress last reauthorized the legislation in 2013. This spring, Biden signed the 2022 reauthorization, which is expected to help with such issues as sex trafficking, missing and murdered Indigenous women and relatives, sexual assault and housing and it expands programming to include the LGBTQ community for the first time. Marshall Martinez, executive director of Equality New Mexico, called the inclusion in VAWA funding “a big victory.”

“The first thing that is important to know is this is the first time LGBTQ folks specifically are included in VAWA.

U.S. Supreme Court Samuel Alito’s history of abortion differs from historians and Indigenous reproductive leaders 

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito provided a history of abortion rights in the U.S. in his draft opinion for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. His narrative, aimed at why the medical procedure should no longer have federal protection, focused on states making the medical practice illegal in the late 1800s and early 1900s. But both Indigenous people and historians have a more nuanced narrative. Alito noted when each state in the U.S. codified laws regulating abortion. New Mexico outlawed the procedure in 1919.

Hundreds protest in Las Cruces for abortion rights 

More than 200 individuals protested the potential “roll back” of abortion rights on Saturday in Las Cruces. The U.S. Supreme Court’s draft decision, leaked in early May, on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization indicated the court will likely overturn the 1973 decision that expanded reproductive rights in the U.S. nearly 50 years ago. Within 24 hours about 100 people gathered outside of the Las Cruces City Hall to protest. The protest this past weekend brought out more people. Thousands protested in cities all across the U.S., including Albuquerque. 

Amid honking horns at the corner of Main Street and Picacho Street, protesters held signs.

What the Supreme Court abortion draft opinion means for Indigenous people

Earlier this spring, the need for financial assistance to obtain an abortion caused abortion fund provider Indigenous Women Rising to take a break so the grassroots organization could “catch up” financially. The need was “so intense” IWR almost ran out of money, Rachel Lorenzo (Mescalero Apache/Laguna Pueblo/Xicana), co-founder of IWR, said. Lorenzo, who uses they/them pronouns, said that the group is still on break. But when IWR returns to funding abortion patients later this month, the organization will return to its original mission of providing abortion care funding to Indigenous individuals. Last year, in response to the Texas “vigilante” law that prohibits abortion in that state after six weeks, IWR broadened its funding to include undocumented individuals.

Student group at New Mexico State University responds to U.S. Supreme Court draft decision

Responding to the U.S. Supreme Court’s draft document that, once leaked in early May, revealed the court appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, a new student group at New Mexico State University is taking shape. The U.S. Supreme Court heard Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization last December. The state of Mississippi passed a 15-week gestational ban in 2018 and has asked the high court to consider overturning Roe v. Wade in its decision. The draft decision, leaked to Politico and released in early May, has led to protests and Democrats in the U.S. Senate making a second attempt this year to codify Roe v. Wade into federal law. Dan Vargo, a graduate student at NMSU, initiated a call to fellow graduate students shortly after Politico released the court’s draft document.

What the court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade could mean to New Mexico’s LGBTQIA+ community

If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, as is now expected this summer, the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community will be thrown into jeopardy, advocates believe. In the leaked draft opinion that reveals the Supreme Court will likely overturn Roe v. Wade this summer, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito attacked the court’s arguments written into the Roe v. Wade decision affirming the right to abortion. He also took aim at Casey v. Planned Parenthood, the 1992 decision that reaffirmed Roe. Roe v. Wade rests on the argument that individuals have a right to privacy and that the right can be found in the 14th Amendment and in other amendments. Subsequent rulings that effect LGBTQIA+ rights, such as Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 decision granting the right to same sex marriage, rests on a similar argument.

Senate blocks effort to codify Roe v. Wade

A vote in the U.S. Senate to end the filibuster on the Women’s Health Protection Act failed on Wednesday. The Senate took up the issue originally in February when Senate Republicans filibustered the bill. To end the filibuster and allow the Senate to vote on the legislation, Senate Democrats needed 60 votes in support. With one Democrat siding with Republicans and a 50-50 party split in the chamber, Democrats lacked enough votes to try to hear the bill on the floor. The Women’s Health Protection Act would have codified Roe v. Wade in advance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s final decision on the Mississippi 15-week abortion ban expected this summer.

Impact of Oklahoma’s six-week abortion ban a precursor of what’s to come

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and other providers could be opening up more brick-and-mortar abortion clinics near New Mexico state lines, one official with PPRM said. On the heels of the leaked U.S. Supreme Court document this week, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill Tuesday, effectively immediately, that initiated a Texas-style mechanism to make abortion unobtainable in that state at about six weeks gestation. The law would allow anyone to sue an organization or individual who “aids and abets” a patient receiving an abortion on or about six weeks gestation. Officials with Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains told NM Political Report earlier this week, before Politico reported on the U.S. Supreme Court draft decision indicating the court will likely overturn Roe v. Wade this summer, that what’s been happening in Oklahoma could be a precursor of what’s to come for New Mexico in the coming months. Earlier this year, Stitt signed a law that will outlaw the procedure entirely except in the event of a medical emergency, punishable as a felony and a $100,000 fine.