An announcement from Pope Francis declaring that all Catholic priests can continue to forgive women who have had abortions seems to be more symbolic and less canonical—at least in the United States. In an apostolic letter, or a formal decree, this week, Francis called on Catholic priests to continue forgiving women who have abortions after the Year of Mercy ended. “There is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father,” Francis wrote. In New Mexico, a state with a heavily Catholic population, some welcomed the developments. But Catholics and other religious people who support abortion rights said the Church should further reform its stance on abortion rights.
Former Texas state Senator and new liberal icon Wendy Davis spoke to activists and politicians in Albuquerque Wednesday about women’s reproductive rights and healthcare. Davis’ celebrity status among progressive politicos was evident when former New Mexico state Representative Liz Thomson expressed her excitement for meeting Davis. “I’m like a kid meeting Beatles,” Thompson said as she introduced Davis to the group. Thomson is running to reclaim her state House seat. Davis spoke to the group of about 30 people about her experience in the Texas state Senate her filibuster of a law that would eventually limit women’s health clinics.
A U.S. congressional panel is planning on subpoenaing two Albuquerque health clinics that practice abortions as part of an investigation into allegations of selling fetal tissue for money. Thursday night, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, accused the University of New Mexico and Albuquerque-based Southwest Women’s Options of not cooperating with her Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives panel’s investigation into those allegations. In a press release, Blackburn said “these organizations have compelled our panel to subpoena these documents in order to acquire information that is vital to the completion of our work.”
“Without these subpoenas, the American people and the House itself would be left to speculate about what is going on in the fetal tissue industry,” Blackburn said. Southwest Women’s Options, which is one of just a few clinics in the nation that practices abortions into the third trimester of pregnancy, contends it’s been fully cooperative with the congressional panel. “We have formally responded this afternoon to its information request, as we previously arranged,” Jessica R. Hertz, an attorney for Southwest Women’s Options, said in a statement to NM Political Report.
Rhetoric on abortion heated up in 2015 after anti-abortion advocates leaked videos of Planned Parenthood officials and Robert Dear violently attacked a clinic in Colorado Springs. But whether the emotional debate comes to bills at the legislative session later this month and next isn’t yet known. Measures impacting abortion rights face odds this year because the upcoming session is focused on the state budget. Gov. Susana Martinez has the sole authority to allow any legislation not related to the state budget to be heard this year. So far, only state Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-Alamogordo, has confirmed publicly that she asked Martinez to allow the Legislature to hear a bill that would ban abortion procedures after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Earlier this month, there was a nationwide push to protest against Planned Parenthood. It was the second national call to action in the last two months. Since July, anti-abortion activists have been calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood after short, highly-edited portions of a series of videos insinuated that the organization sold and profited from fetuses. The CEO and President of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains was in Albuquerque on Friday and New Mexico Political Report sat down with her to talk about what her organization does and what would happen if they were defunded. Vicki Cowart, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, told New Mexico Political Report there has been some misunderstanding when talking about Planned Parenthood and funding.
Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry is calling on an anti-abortion group to stop using blown-up graphic imagery in a Southeast Heights neighborhood. This week, Protest ABQ has been driving a truck with a large-scale picture of what’s purported to be an aborted fetus throughout the district where city council candidate Pat Davis* lives. Davis, who was part of a coalition group in 2013 that advocated against a ballot initiative that would have banned abortions in Albuquerque after 20 weeks of pregnancy, is running to replace Councilor Rey Garduño in the Democrat-leaning District 6. Berry, a Republican opposed to abortion rights, made the announcement in a Youtube video Friday. “As a pro-life mayor and a former state legislator, today I’m calling on Protest ABQ to stop taking large-scale images of abortions into neighborhoods where our children and our schoolkids are being exposed and traumatized,” Berry said in the video.