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.
This month, New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, an Albuquerque-based abortion fund, has helped 28 patients get an abortion, up from 15 in September 2020 when fears of COVID-19 prevented travel and 21 in September 2019. And the month of September is not yet over, Brittany Defeo, New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice program manager, pointed out. The increase in demand is due to the Texas six-week gestational abortion ban that went into effect at the beginning of the month. Defeo said the coalition is the last abortion fund most patients apply to because what the coalition offers – help with accommodations and trips to the airport, bus or train station – are services needed by the most economically perilous who need an abortion later in pregnancy which requires an overnight stay. But because of the Texas law, the coalition is now seeing patients request their services even before 10 weeks of gestation because the patient needs to travel to New Mexico to take abortion medication.
Several elected New Mexico officials signed onto a letter sent by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas asking for the end of border expulsions under Title 42. Title 42 is a program started under former President Donald Trump which has continued under President Joe Biden. Under Title 42, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) expels asylum seekers at the border rather than allowing them to enter the country and go through the process of applying for asylum in the U.S.
Under Biden, some exemptions became available though CBP still turned away the majority who requested asylum at a port of entry. But Katie Hoeppner, a spokesperson for ACLU-New Mexico, told NM Politlcal Report in an email that the situation “is now deeply troubling because there is no way for people seeking asylum to safely approach ports of entry and request protection, no matter how vulnerable they are.”
The letter states that allowing asylum seekers to enter into the U.S. is not only a legal responsibility but that it can be done safely. The letter states that recent research shows that 99 percent of asylum seekers who were not detained or released from immigration custody showed up for their hearings in 2019.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas joined attorneys general from 22 other states and the District of Columbia on an amicus brief in support of the U.S. Attorney General’s suit against Texas’ six-week gestation ban. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is the lead on the brief but Balderas spoke along with Healey during a press conference held virtually on Wednesday to discuss the amicus brief and the Texas law that went into effect at the beginning of September. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced last week the U.S. Department of Justice is suing Texas to stop the unconstitutional six-week gestational abortion ban. The attorney’s general amicus brief is a document that provides support to the DOJ’s lawsuit. Calling the Texas six-week gestational ban “another reckless attempt at Texas restricting the rights of women and families across this country,” Balderas cited the various ways the Texas law is harming individuals living in New Mexico.
In a tweet earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell equated abortion with eugenics. Herrell’s tweet on Monday was a response to a clip from an NBC broadcaster who was commenting that the state of Texas is “running over” women’s constitutional rights to obtain an abortion since that state’s six-week gestational ban went into effect at the beginning of September. “Of course, @JoeNBC is completely wrong. Abortion is not “enumerated” in the Constitution, specifically or otherwise, & its invention as a right in Roe v. Wade rests on garbage legal reasoning. America will be a better place when abortion joins eugenics on the ash heap of history,” she wrote in her tweet.
Scared and watchful, moms said they want their children to remain in in-person learning despite the Delta variant causing another COVID-19 surge in New Mexico. After about a year of remote learning, New Mexico public schools started the new year in August and returned to in-person learning. But the Delta variant is spreading the virus, causing a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in New Mexico and throughout the country. The virus is spreading predominantly among people who are unvaccinated. In recent weeks, cases of COVID-19 have increased in children, who cannot get vaccinated yet if under the age of 12.
Without wage parity, New Mexico cannot grow its early childcare education, according to the grassroots organization, OLÉ New Mexico. OLÉ New Mexico held a virtual meeting Thursday evening to bring attention to the low wages early childcare educators make in New Mexico.
According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington D.C.-based think tank, early childcare workers earned, on average, $12.24 per hour in 2020. In New Mexico, the median early childcare worker salary was even lower, at $10.26 an hour in 2020. That amounts to $21,340 annually, which is below the current poverty level of $26,200 for a family of four. One woman who spoke, Ivydel Natachu, said she has been an early childcare educator in New Mexico for 16 years.
Kahleel Alkhalil, a 35-year-old Syrian refugee living in Albuquerque with his wife and eight children, has not been able to receive government relief he qualifies for because he speaks Arabic. Alkhalil is one of thousands of New Mexicans who are eligible for pandemic relief who speak a language other than English or Spanish, said James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children. Because the nonnative speakers do not possess either English or Spanish skills, they are often unable to access government assistance they qualify for during the COVID-19 pandemic because state government documents and systems do not offer alternative language choices, Jimenez said. A recent New Mexico Voices for Children report, Eligible but Excluded, said that federal law requires state agencies to provide “meaningful access” to people who speak languages other than English but many state agencies in New Mexico have no plans in place to improve language access. This makes breaking a system of economic hardship difficult and is inequitable, the report states.
With federal unemployment assistance ending in New Mexico on Sept. 4, Albuquerque resident Rhiannon Chavez-Ross worries she could lose her house. A single mom with two children, Chavez-Ross lost her party and event business when the COVID-19 pandemic began. She said she received a Paycheck Protection Program loan of less than $1,000 for her business last year and she has been on unemployment benefits since the early days of the virus’ spread. But, she said she has had to supplement her unemployment relief with money from her savings.
A University of New Mexico Cancer Center oncologist said she and other providers are seeing an increase in the amount of people diagnosed with breast cancer in the state. Dr. Ursa Brown-Glaberman, medical oncologist at the UNM Cancer Comprehensive Center, said the increase in cancer diagnosis began in fall of 2020. She said providers “saw what we expected; a whole lot of cancer out there not being detected.”
“As clinicians, we saw a huge wave of diagnosis. We were incredibly busy [in the] fall [of 2020] and spring [of 2021] and there were more patients than we normally see with new breast cancers. We saw women who skipped mammograms for a year.