UNM approves land acquisition for Las Cruces reproductive health center

Thursday, the University of New Mexico Board of Regents approved a land acquisition for a full-spectrum reproductive healthcare center, that will include abortion care, in Doña Ana County.  The UNM Board of Regents voted 6-1 to move forward with the purchase of land, according to a news release. Charlene Bencomo, executive director of Bold Futures, […]

UNM approves land acquisition for Las Cruces reproductive health center

Thursday, the University of New Mexico Board of Regents approved a land acquisition for a full-spectrum reproductive healthcare center, that will include abortion care, in Doña Ana County. 

The UNM Board of Regents voted 6-1 to move forward with the purchase of land, according to a news release. Charlene Bencomo, executive director of Bold Futures, told NM Political Report that the goal is to have the reproductive center open to see patients by October 2025.

The project is called the Reproductive Healthcare Success Project. Bencomo said the $10 million allocated by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, which was approved by the 2023 legislature despite an effort to block it by Republicans, is the money UNM is using to acquire the land. That money will also be used to construct the building, she said. 

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Becomo said the four organizations collaborating on the creation of the center are Bold Futures, UNM Health Sciences Center, Strong Families and Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. She said the four groups are still working out who will run the center but she said it is a full partnership among the four.

She said the group is also in discussion with the New Mexico Doula Association. 

Bencomo said the center will provide a full spectrum of reproductive healthcare and that will include both abortion and gender-affirming care. She said due to the center’s location, it will likely attract patients coming from out-of-state and more rural areas of southern New Mexico as well as residents of Las Cruces.

The center is a part of the changing landscape of reproductive care in Las Cruces and New Mexico in general. Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in 2022 that overturned Roe v. Wade, more abortion clinics have relocated to New Mexico and new clinics have opened in both Albuquerque and in Las Cruces. In addition, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains expanded its abortion care in the state to include medication abortion in its Farmington clinic and the organization opened a brick-and-mortar clinic in Las Cruces last year.   

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

Bencomo said the RHSP clinic has been needed in southern New Mexico for a long time. She said the way the center will deliver care will be a holistic approach focused on good outcomes for both patients and providers. 

An example of that is having doula care available for patients in the future clinic. Bencomo said doulas can assist with more than birthing. They can provide assistance in explaining medical information to patients, which frees time for the provider to see another patient but allows the patients to get the information they need about their care.

Doulas can also bridge language barriers, Bencomo said. 

Bencomo said the project has taken time to move forward because the collaborators have involved community members and have been “truly listening.” She said it has been important to involve community members who will be the most impacted by the decisions the group is making. 

Bencomo said the group has not picked a specific location yet but that they are looking for one that will be accessible by public transportation. Security will be considered. 

University of New Mexico OB-GYN Department Chair, Eve Espey said through the release that the department is excited to be a part of the project.

“We are dedicated to reducing health inequities across our state,” she said through the release.

PPRM said through a statement that they are “honored” to also be participating in the project.

“We take our responsibility to steward these funds seriously, knowing that high-levels of transparency and collaboration often result in longer timeframes. We prioritize these values over moving too quickly through this one-of-a-kind community-led endeavor,“ Adrienne Mansanares, president and chief executive officer of PPRM, said through the release.

Marshall Martinez, executive director of Equality New Mexico, told NM Political Report that having a full-spectrum reproductive center in Las Cruces that will include both abortion and gender affirming care is also of importance to the LGBTQ community. In addition to making it possible for individuals who live in southern New Mexico to have access to care that is closer to home, it will make it easier for individuals who live in Texas to access gender affirming care. He said the fact that Texas has banned gender affirming care for minors has sent a chill in the medical community in Texas and that adults now also struggle to find the care they need.

In addition, having gender affirming care in Las Cruces will make it easier for undocumented individuals to receive healthcare because of border checkpoints along the route to Albuquerque.

“A good percentage of asylum seekers from Central and South American countries seek asylum here because their lives are in danger as queer people,” he said. “We have to think about everything we can do to reduce the harm to them.”

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