Despite abortion in New Mexico remaining legal and recent legislation to further protect care, municipalities and counties have passed more anti-abortion ordinances than other states that are considered pro-abortion. Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, told NM Political Report that attempts to pass similar ordinances have occurred in other states but no other state has had as many locales pass anti-abortion ordinances as New Mexico that are pro-abortion. Her group monitors anti-abortion ordinances passed at the local level around the U.S.
The town of Edgewood is the latest of six locales in New Mexico that have passed anti-abortion ordinances. The city council passed the ordinance at the end of an eight-hour public meeting last month. When asked if she thought New Mexico has become the new battleground for abortion rights, Miller said that “might be giving these things too much credence.”
“A very small proportion of these kinds of extreme measures are up against an overwhelming degree of support and elected officials are taking affirmative steps at the state level to not only safeguard access but also to expand it,” she said.
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a temporary stay on the appellate decision about the abortion medication drug mifepristone on Friday, but one abortion provider in New Mexico said her staff are already seeing fewer people request abortion medication when making appointments. Whole Women’s Health, formerly known for its work as an abortion provider in Texas, moved to a new location in Albuquerque last month. Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and chief executive officer of Whole Women’s Health, told NM Political Report that even though abortion medication remains legal in New Mexico, she and her staff have noticed a decline in patients requesting abortion medication when setting an appointment in the three weeks the clinic has been open in the state. Hagstrom Miller said the legal battle around abortion medication causes confusion for patients. She also said it increases the stigma around abortion and that is an equity issue.
Two separate lawsuits and decisions issued on the same day last week regarding the Federal Drug Administration and its approval and rules around the abortion medication mifepristone has caused confusion over the drug’s legality in the day since then, but a federal district judge in Washington state clarified the drug’s status as legal in New Mexico late on Thursday. Washington state federal district Judge Thomas Rice clarified that his decision last week to further lift FDA regulations on mifepristone will remain in effect in those 18 jurisdictions, including New Mexico, regardless of the conflicting decision released by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals late Wednesday night. Rice issued his clarification that his decision holds true for the 17 states and the District of Columbia less than 24 hours after the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans, determined that the FDA must return to how it regulated mifepristone prior to 2016. The attorneys general in 17 states and the District of Columbia sued the FDA earlier this year asking the agency to lift its remaining restrictions on the abortion medication mifepristone. Rice, in eastern Washington, ruled last Friday in favor of the plaintiffs but his ruling came on the same day as Texas federal district Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s rule against the FDA restricting mifepristone.
Two conflicting rulings on Friday leave the future use of the abortion medication mifepristone uncertain, though because of one of the rulings, it could remain legal in New Mexico. There are two rulings in separate states that conflict with one another on the use of the abortion medication mifepristone and the judicial decisions both order the U.S. Federal Drug Administration to act differently with regard to the drug. The ruling made by a Texas federal district judge could force the FDA to remove mifepristone off the market after a seven-day injunction period. But, a ruling also made by a Washington state federal district judge could mean that in 17 states, including New Mexico, the drug would continue to be legally available. But, with two different rulings provided by two different judges that are in direct conflict with each other, there is considerable uncertainty as to the future of abortion medication, reproductive rights advocates said during a national press conference on Monday.
The Legislature passed two major reproductive rights bills this legislative session, one of which went to the governor’s desk in the final days. Both bills increase protections in the state for both reproductive healthcare and gender-affirming care. As of February 1, 2023, there are 17 states that have put some protections in place for abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham already signed HB 7, the Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare Act, into law. It prohibits public bodies from discriminating against individuals seeking reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare.
There are two towns, Clovis and Hobbs, and two counties, Lincoln and Roosevelt, that have passed ordinances that have placed barriers to clinics that provide abortions from obtaining a business license.
A bill that would end life sentencing for children who are sentenced as adults for violent crimes passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday. SB 64, No Life Sentence for Juveniles, is sponsored by state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque. She said the bill this year is different from previous versions. It would end life without parole as a sentencing potential and create early parole eligibility for long sentencing. “It brings New Mexico in line with national best practices and what every parent knows.
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade Friday morning, creating what individuals working on the front lines of reproductive access in New Mexico called a “public health emergency” during a press conference Friday afternoon. Farinaz Khan, a healthcare provider, said every abortion clinic in four states closed by Friday morning. “As women and people with uteruses, we are second class citizens in our own country. Our patients will be deeply harmed by this decision,” she said. Many during the press conference stressed that abortion is, and will remain, legal and safe in New Mexico.
The U.S. Supreme Court appears likely to overturn Roe v. Wade or “effectively” overturn it, legal experts said on Wednesday after the court heard oral arguments on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. The much-anticipated court case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, went before the court Wednesday for a two-hour oral argument. The state of Mississippi banned abortion at 15 weeks in 2019 and asked the court specifically to overturn the 1973 landmark decision. Ellie Rushforth, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, said that, after listening to the court Wednesday morning, it seemed clear that the justices, “regardless of the arguments presented by the attorneys today are pretty well settled in their minds on this issue.”
Six of the nine justices are conservative and several have spoken explicitly or made previous rulings indicating that they oppose abortion. “It was pretty clear by the questions the justices asked and the way they were talking to one another that we don’t have the size necessary to uphold Roe as it stands today,” Rushforth said.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Fulton v. the City of Philadelphia is not likely to a impact the New Mexico LGBTQ community, legal experts and advocates have said. Fulton v. the City of Philadelphia asked the Supreme Court to decide if Catholic Social Services (CSS) could continue its contract with that city to help find foster families even though the city said it couldn’t because CSS discriminates against same sex couples in its fostering application. The Supreme Court heard the case last fall and when the U.S. Congress was considering Justice Amy Coney Barrett for nomination to the bench, members of the LGBTQ community in New Mexico worried that a more conservative bench could overturn precedent and allow discrimination, which in turn could have a ripple effect in New Mexico. Related: U.S. Supreme Court could roll back LGBTQ equality
But, Ellie Rushforth, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, said the court’s decision in June was so narrow it would only apply to this particular case wouldn’t likely have an impact in New Mexico. “I disagree with the finding but what the court said is, because the city contract contained a mechanism for offering individual discretion to the agencies, the court held the city could not refuse to extend the contract to Catholic Social Services,” she said.
If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns or guts Roe v. Wade next year when it hears the case involving a Mississippi law that would ban abortion after 15 weeks, New Mexico could face a fight and increased harassment at clinics, according to reproductive rights experts. The U.S. Supreme Court announced earlier this week it will hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, regarding the Mississippi law that prohibits abortion after 15 weeks with few exceptions. The state of Mississippi asked the court to decide on whether all pre-viability bans on abortion violate the Constitution. The court’s decision is expected to come down in 2022 before the mid-term general election. New Mexico, which was one of very few states to pass pro-abortion rights legislation this year, will feel the effects of the Supreme Court’s decision regardless of how the court decides the Mississippi case, according to reproductive health advocates.