The state Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill to protection abortion and gender-affirming health care rights by a 6-to-3 party line vote after a tense tie-breaking vote to amend the bill on Saturday. HB 7 is sponsored by state Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Santa Fe. She said the bill “ensures we’re not adding fear so that people don’t seek life-saving healthcare.”
“It prohibits public bodies from discriminating against individuals seeking reproductive or gender-affirming healthcare,” she said. The bill prevents public bodies, such as municipalities and counties, from passing or enforcing anti-abortion ordinances. Clovis, Hobbs, Lea and Roosevelt counties have passed such ordinances in recent months.
A bill to prevent discrimination for individuals seeking abortion care or gender-affirming care in New Mexico cleared the House Health and Human Services Committee by 7-3 on Friday. HB 7, Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Health Care, is intended to protect individuals who seek abortion care and gender-affirming care from discrimination by any public body. Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Albuquerque, is the primary sponsor of the bill. The bill will head to the House Judiciary Committee next. The bill generated considerable public comment and committee debate. Questions came from three Republicans on the committee, Jenifer Jones of Deming, Stefani Lord of Sandia Park and Harlan Vincent of Ruidoso Downs.
A pending federal lawsuit could impact the use of medication abortion for patients nationwide, including New Mexico. A religious group filed a complaint in November in a district in Texas where the likely federal district judge to consider the case is a Trump appointee with long standing connections to politically active religious groups, the Center for Reproductive Rights has said. The suit asks the court to overturn the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone in 2000, claiming that the FDA approved the drug through its accelerated drug approval authority. The complaint states that the FDA “never studied the safety of the drug” that it approved as safe for abortion care 22 years ago. Mifepristone is one part of the two-drug regime for medication abortion.
By Robert Nott and Nathan Lederman, The Santa Fe New Mexican
Lawmakers from both major parties are vowing to do something this year about the crime that worries and frightens New Mexicans. Just one week into this year’s 60-day legislative session, over 20 bills have been filed to crack down on crime, and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has come out in support of ideas such as holding more suspected violent offenders in jail pretrial. As lawmakers weigh various get-tough measures, some progressive advocacy groups hope the Legislature does more to fight poverty, help children and the mentally ill and otherwise address the systemic problems that lead to crime instead of punitive policies that, they say, haven’t worked in the past. “We would be disingenuous if we said there is an immediate solution to this problem,” said Nayomi Valdez, director of public policy for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico. “We did not get here overnight.
The New Mexico Legislature will debate its first two pieces of reproductive health care bills since the fall of Roe v. Wade last summer. One is designed to protect privacy and the other is intended to prevent municipalities and counties from placing local prohibitions on abortion care. The one that could bring the most controversy is the Reproductive Health Care Freedom Act, sponsored by state House Rep. Linda Serrato and state Sen. Linda Lopez, both Democrats from Albuquerque. Serrato told NM Political Report that this bill was not crafted in response to the ordinances some New Mexico municipalities have considered or passed in some rural parts of the state. She said individuals within the reproductive health community were able to anticipate those actions ahead of time and were already talking about the bill before Clovis held a special city council meeting in mid-October to consider an ordinance that would have given the city council authority to deny an abortion clinic a license to practice within the city limits.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico released a surveillance video that shows a group of incarcerated men beat another inmate while two guards look away at the Central New Mexico Corrections Facility in Los Lunas. The video appears to contradict the incident report filed by the guards regarding what took place. New Mexico Department of Corrections told NM Political Report that “an investigation has been initiated and two staff members have been placed on administrative leave.”
“There was an incident reported on August 10, 2022, at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility where a verbal disagreement led to a physical altercation between low-security level inmates actively participating in a work crew. NMCD takes the safety of staff and inmates very seriously and acknowledges the concerning nature of the video,” Carmelina Hart, public relations manager for NMCD, said through email. According to the incident report obtained by the ACLU-NM, a guard confronted the alleged victim, whose name has not been released, about refusing to work and the victim said he would turn violent on the guard.
Migrant advocacy organizations are raising questions about a Brazilian man’s apparent death by suicide while in U.S. Immigrant and Customs Enforcement custody. Kesley Vial, a young Brazilian man who sought asylum in the U.S., died on August 24 due to a fatal suicide attempt while housed in the Torrance County Detention Facility on August 17. Several of his friends were the first to respond to Vial, according to Rebecca Sheff, senior attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico. “They [ICE] have the authority to release anyone from this facility, but they’re refusing to grant releases. It’s pretty drastic and refusing releases to first responders who were close friends – they are deeply traumatized and that’s a concern for us,” Sheff said.
The New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, an abortion fund provider, is expanding its services to Las Cruces. Since the fall of Roe v. Wade in June, more than one reproductive healthcare organization has said it will open a new clinic in Las Cruces to help with what many have called a health care crisis. So far, some bans on abortion have become law in 17 states, including most neighboring states. This has increased the number of patients traveling to New Mexico seeking care. While Joan Lamunyon Sanford, executive director of NMRCRC, told NM Political Report that since Texas banned abortion after six weeks in September of last year, the abortion fund started receiving between 75 to 80 callers a month.
Events reported by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection surrounding the death of a migrant child last month are questionable, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico said. CBP released a statement last week to report the death of the child on July 23. Based on the information provided by CBP, the ACLU-NM is concerned that the agency didn’t do enough to try to save the child, Rebecca Sheff, senior staff attorney for the organization told NM Political Report. According to CBP’s statement, on July 22 an unidentified person requested help from CBP agents who were in an area south of Deming following foot tracks. The guide led the CBP agents to a nearby remote area approximately 16 miles northeast of the Columbus Port of Entry.
The city of Alamogordo passed a resolution on Tuesday designating the town of 31,000 as a “sanctuary city for the unborn,” despite more public opposition to the resolution than support for it. Of the public comments, 105 members of the public were opposed while 82 spoke in favor. Last month the Otero County commissioners passed a resolution declaring the county as a sanctuary for the unborn. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico sent letters to both the city and the county with warnings that any attempt to prevent abortion in New Mexico is in violation of the state’s constitution and that the organization would pursue civil action. During an anti-abortion rally in Las Cruces last month, one speaker from Mississippi told the crowd that the way to turn New Mexico into an anti-abortion state was to start with the passage of a teenage consent law.