CLOVIS, N.M. – The sanctuary in Grace Covenant Reformed Church was packed. People stood shoulder to shoulder wherever they could – near the stained glass windows depicting scenes from the Bible, behind the neatly lined rows of chairs that serve as pews, against a wall covered in crosses made from painted wood, wire, glass and ceramic red chiles. Bibles and hymnals rested under every seat, but they weren’t used that Monday night last September. There was no sermon, because this wasn’t a church service.
Residents of Clovis, a town of some 40,000 people a mere 20-minute drive to the Texas state line, crammed into this little brick building that night to discuss a plan of action to ban abortion. Just three months earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court had issued its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson, overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that had legalized abortion in the U.S. for almost 50 years.
On Monday the New Mexico House Republicans announced that they have a form available for interested parents or guardians. The Parental Notification and Consent form gives interested parents/guardians a way to opt their student out of certain curricula. The form asks that a parent or guardian “require prior notification before my child participates in, or is given access to any health care services, class, lesson, instruction, curriculum, assembly, guest speaker, activity, assignment, library material, online material, club, group, or association concerning” LGBTQIA+, abortion, contraception and family planning. It also requires primary notification before the child “participates in, or be given access to” any health care services, referral for services, or association concerning primary health care or mental or psychiatric care. “If I am not given prior notification and the ability to make an informed decision concerning the wellbeing of my child, I withhold consent for the items checked above,” the form closes.
Another court filing claiming Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver overstepped her authority has been dismissed, this time in state district court in Chaves County. The allegations come from a series of attempted referendum petitions being circulated without proper authorizations which include the SOS’s stamp and the New Mexico Attorney General’s signature. The petitioner in this case, Larry Marker, petitioned the court for a declaratory judgment asserting that the SOS “exceeded her authority in determining that HB 7, entitled An Act Relating to Health; Protecting Access to Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Health Care; Providing for Enforcement; Prescribing Relief, was an act ‘providing for the preservation of the public peace, health or safety’ under Section 1 and therefore exempt from the referendum process.”
Fifth Judicial District Court Judge James M. Hudson determined otherwise. “The Secretary of State has been delegated the authority by the Legislature to determine whether a law subject to a proposed referendum is subject to the referendum process or falls within an exception,” the order to dismiss states.
More: SOS: The petitions seeking to repeal laws are not legitimate, first of several cases about it dismissed
Additionally, the petition only stated that the SOS lacked authority, it did not “ask this Court to review whether the Secretary properly exercised her authority. Nonetheless,… the Court cannot foreclose that possibility,” the order states.
Across New Mexico, a series of veto referendum petitions are being circulated by a conservative organization. These petitions, although not official, are an attempt to repeal six bills passed by the legislature during this year’s regular session. The New Mexico Family Action Movement, which claims that rights were taken away from New Mexicans by the legislature during the legislative session due to the passage of these bills, is circulating the petitions. The bills involve abortion rights, school-based health centers, gender identity, automatic voter registration and the new permanent absentee voter list and mandatory training for poll watchers and clarifying voter roll updates. However, the petitions being circulated are not official, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox. Series: Post-Roe America
Abortion Access Divides the Nation
Nine months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending nearly 50 years of federal protection of abortion rights, the impact of the landmark ruling known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization continues to ripple across the nation. In Dobbs, the Supreme Court voted 6-3 that the U.S. Constitution does not confer a right to abortion. The ruling essentially divided the nation into two territories: states where people have access to abortion care and states where most or all people are unable to obtain an abortion, even if their lives are at risk.
Patricia Henderson stood in the parking lot next to the Florida Women’s Center in Jacksonville, wearing a white lab coat and greeting patients as they emerged from their cars. Their abortion appointments, she told them, were in the flat-roofed building across the road. Once inside, Henderson handed them three pages of paperwork to fill out – questions about everything from their highest level of education to the date of their last period. State investigative documents lay out what clients say happened next: She led them to a pink-walled ultrasound room, where she would reveal their pregnancies in grainy images that, according to leading medical groups, only a licensed physician or a specially trained advanced practice nurse should interpret. Henderson told one woman that abortion causes breast cancer – a claim widely disputed by medical research.
She informed another that she was not pregnant and just had a stomach virus.
New Mexico voters indicated that they support abortion rights, including New Mexico’s repeal of an antiquated abortion law. In a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling for NM Political Report, 55 percent of likely voters said they supported the repeal of the law that allowed abortion to remain legal in New Mexico despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision this summer that overturned Roe v. Wade. Another 33 percent said they opposed it and 11 percent said that they were not sure. This is similar to the results in June, before the Supreme Court decided Dobbs. In that poll, 53 percent said they would support such a repeal and 36 percent said they would oppose it.
On Wednesday, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced she will designate$10 million in executive capital outlay funding next year to develop a new clinic in Doña Ana County. Lujan Grisham is directing the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration to designate the $10 million in the upcoming 2023 legislative session for the new clinic. The New Mexico Department of Health will also develop a plan to leverage state resources to expand access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion, to underserved areas of the state to increase access and decrease wait times at abortion clinics. Lujan Grisham’s announcement was a part of her second executive order on reproductive healthcare since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in late June. The first order established that New Mexico would not cooperate with other state’s efforts to prosecute patients who travel to New Mexico and would protect providers who work in the state.
Treatments for miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies are still legal under the state’s abortion ban, according to state law and legal experts. But the statutes don’t account for complicated miscarriages, and confusion has led some providers to delay or deny care for patients in Texas.
Texas laws banning abortions make narrow exceptions only to save the life of a pregnant patient or prevent “substantial impairment of major bodily function.” And lawmakers in recent years have clarified state statutes to say treatments for miscarriages, known as “spontaneous abortions” in medicine, and ectopic pregnancies, in which a fertilized egg grows outside of the uterus and becomes unviable, do not count as abortions.
President Joe Biden issued an executive order on Friday to protect reproductive care in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade last month. Amid cries among progressives that Biden should take steps to protect abortion with measures such as expanding the court or provide abortion on federal land, Biden said during a press conference on Friday that his authority to counter the court’s decision was limited. But he raised his voice in anger when describing a recent news story about a 10-year-old rape victim in Ohio who had to travel out of state for a legal abortion in Indiana due to a resulting pregnancy. Biden stressed that the U.S. Congress needs to pass the Women’s Health Protective Act to protect abortion care. The U.S. House passed the bill but Republicans in the U.S. Senate have filibustered it.