Head of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains retires after 18 years at helm

Vicki Cowart, president and chief executive officer for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, was once thrown out of a business club in Caspar, Wyoming, for being a woman. It was a different time then, one in which job interviewers didn’t hesitate to ask women if they planned to have children and, if so, would they keep working, she said. Now such questions would be considered discriminatory and, potentially, actionable but Cowart, who has been leading PPRM since 2003, said facing repeated discrimination as a young professional, reading feminist literature and participating as an activist in her off time is why the last half of her career has been devoted to ensuring pregnant people have access to abortion in New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada. Cowart announced earlier this fall her plans to retire. She said she intends to continue until the board has found a replacement.

U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments Monday on Texas anti-abortion law

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday morning for two cases related to the Texas law that bans abortion at six-weeks of gestation. The arguments presented procedural questions about whether or not a group of providers and advocates called Whole Women’s Health Coalition and the U.S. Department of Justice can bring separate lawsuits because the only state actors involved in SB 8 are state court judges and clerks. Texas lawmakers wrote the law in such a way as to abrogate responsibility for the law, leaving Whole Women’s Health Coalition in the position of needing to sue each state trial court judge and an injunction against every county clerk in the state of Texas. The DOJ is suing the state of Texas. If the court rules in either case in favor of either Whole Women’s Health Coalition or the DOJ, the case would go back to the lower court and allow the plaintiff’s legal challenge to the law proceed.

How the Texas abortion ban is affecting New Mexico abortion providers and funds, almost four weeks in

An abortion provider in New Mexico said the increase in patients from Texas will no longer be manageable if it continues in the coming weeks. Adrienne Mansanares, chief experience officer for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, told NM Political Report that the group’s clinics are “not in crisis right now.”

But she said they are “in an unhealthy place” and it “won’t be manageable in the coming weeks if we continue to see the percentage increase from Texas.”

Mansanares said of the roughly 3,000 abortions that take place in New Mexico annually, Planned Parenthood provides about 700 of them. “What we saw in the first week [of September] is what we typically see in a month,” she said. She said there are about 55,000 abortions in Texas each year. Abortion clinics in New Mexico cannot continue to absorb the need from Texas abortion patients indefinitely, she said.

Bill to protect women’s right to abortion passes U.S. House of Representatives

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Women’s Health Protection Act on Friday by 218 to 211 largely along party lines. One Texas Democrat voted against it while all Republicans voted against the bill. U.S. Representatives Melanie Stansbury of New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, and Teresa Leger Fernández New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District, both Democrats, voted for the bill. The bill would protect women’s right to an abortion in every state and end gestational bans and other restrictions to reproductive access. The bill is unlikely to pass the U.S. Senate.

DOH: Pregnant people should get vaccinated to prevent severe illness

The New Mexico Department of Health is encouraging women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant to get vaccinated because COVID-19 during pregnancy can lead to complications. DOH issued a statement Thursday reminding the public the importance of vaccinations against COVID-19 for pregnant people. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued guidance that vaccines are safe for pregnant people. The overall risk for severe illness is low, according to the CDC, but pregnant and recently pregnant people are more likely to suffer severe illness from COVID-19 when compared to those who are not pregnant.   

Severe illness can include hospitalization, intensive care, ventilator use or other breathing assistance and, possibly, death, according to the statement. The CDC issued a warning that pregnant people who contract COVID-19 are at an increased risk for preterm birth and could be at an increased risk for other adverse pregnancy outcomes comparable to pregnant people who do not contract COVID-19.

New billboards aim to start conversation about abortion access

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.

Luján throws support behind Medicare-for-all bill

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján announced Tuesday that he supports Medicare-for-all. The Assistant Speaker of the House, the fourth-highest position in Democratic leadership in the chamber, made the announcement as he seeks the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. His opponent in the primary, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, supports Medicare-for-all. Luján told NM Political Report between votes on Wednesday that he supports the legislation because it emphasizes “that healthcare is a fundamental right, not a privilege for the few.”

Toulouse Oliver said on Twitter she is glad that Luján “has come on board with the latest issue I’ve supported from Day 1.” Luján signed onto the bill sponsored by Washington Democrat Pramila Jayapal.

Democrats fight back against lawsuit threatening health law

Among the first things Democrats did after officially taking control of the House was to express support for efforts to appeal a Texas district court decision declaring the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.

Obamacare premiums dip for first time. Some call it a correction.

After two years of double-digit price hikes, the average premium for individual health coverage on the federal health law’s insurance marketplace will drop by 1.5 percent for 2019, the Trump administration said Thursday. The announcement  marked the first time average premiums have fallen since the exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act went into effect in 2014. It also comes during a bitter midterm congressional campaign season in which health care is a central issue following last year’s efforts by Republicans to repeal the ACA. Administration officials claimed credit for the price drop, saying it was due to their actions to make changes to the law. Health policy experts said it was a reaction to insurers’ huge profits following hefty premium increases on plans offered this year.

Congress tackles the opioid epidemic. But how much will it help?

The nation’s opioid epidemic has been called today’s version of the 1980s AIDS crisis. In a speech Monday, President Donald Trump pushed for a tougher federal response, emphasizing a tough-on-crime approach for drug dealers and more funding for treatment. And Congress is upping the ante, via a series of hearings — including one scheduled to last Wednesday through Thursday — to study legislation that might tackle the unyielding scourge, which has cost an estimated $1 trillion in premature deaths, health care costs and lost wages since 2001. Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician by training and the health commissioner for hard-hit Baltimore, said Capitol Hill has to help communities at risk of becoming overwhelmed. “We haven’t seen the peak of the epidemic.