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.
Vice President Kamala Harris said during an event in New Mexico on Tuesday that the fight around reproductive rights in the United States will affect women all over the world. Harris stopped in Albuquerque to talk with Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and University of New Mexico Professor and Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Family Planning Fellowship Director Dr. Eve Espey about protecting reproductive rights. The moderated discussion took place in front of a packed house of about 250 people at the University of New Mexico’s Keller Hall in the Center for the Arts and Arts Museum. Harris said people around the world watch what is happening politically in the U.S. She said former German Chancellor Angela Merkel leaned over during a conversation about Russia and China and asked Harris about what is happening with voting rights in the U.S.
“My fear on this issue is that dictators around the world will say to their people who are fighting for rights, ‘you want to hold out America as the example?’ Look at what they just did; be quiet,’” she said. “I highlight the significance of this moment and the impact, which not only directly impacts the people of our nation but very likely impacts people around the world.”
Harris highlighted her mother’s career, saying that her mother was one of the very few women of color researching breast cancer in her era.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday that the federal government will end the Trump-era policy that has prevented asylum seekers from entering the U.S.
The policy will end May 23. The Trump administration initiated Title 42 in the first few days of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The policy prohibited undocumented individuals from entering the U.S. through a port of entry. At the time, Trump cited the spread of the respiratory disease as a reason to establish the policy but critics quickly condemned the action as racist and inflammatory. The Biden administration, which ran on eliminating or reversing many Trump-era policies, kept Title 42 in place after entering office, despite widespread criticism from immigrant advocacy groups.
The Federal Drug Administration ruled on Thursday that it would permanently lift restrictions around abortion patients receiving medication abortion by mail. This means, for instance, that abortion patients who live in places such as rural New Mexico can receive mifepristone, the first of the two-drug abortion regime, by mail. The FDA has maintained a restriction on in-person pickup of mifepristone at a clinic since the agency approved the drug for abortion 21 years ago. Reproductive experts have said that was a political move as, after 21 years, there were clear indications that taking medication abortion up to 10 weeks of gestation is safe. Ellie Rushforth, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, said by text message that the FDA’s decision is “good news” for patients but some restrictions for clinics still apply.
In a narrow ruling that leads to a limited way forward in the fight to stop Texas SB 8, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against one lawsuit, parsed the other and denied the Biden administration’s request to put Texas SB 8 law on hold. The Supreme Court heard two separate arguments in early November around Texas SB 8, which allows anyone to sue a provider or person who “aids and abets” a Texas abortion patient to receive an abortion in the state after six weeks of gestation. Reproductive rights officials who held a press conference after the high court’s decision on Friday spoke of the “chilling effect” this law has had on providers inside the state and the stress it has put on providers in other states, including New Mexico, to provide abortion care for patients coming from Texas in addition to the patients in their own states. Around 55,000 people in Texas receive an abortion in that state annually prior to the Texas law going into effect in early September. In New Mexico, around 3,000 people receive an abortion each year, on average.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday morning for two cases related to the Texas law that bans abortion at six-weeks of gestation. The arguments presented procedural questions about whether or not a group of providers and advocates called Whole Women’s Health Coalition and the U.S. Department of Justice can bring separate lawsuits because the only state actors involved in SB 8 are state court judges and clerks. Texas lawmakers wrote the law in such a way as to abrogate responsibility for the law, leaving Whole Women’s Health Coalition in the position of needing to sue each state trial court judge and an injunction against every county clerk in the state of Texas. The DOJ is suing the state of Texas. If the court rules in either case in favor of either Whole Women’s Health Coalition or the DOJ, the case would go back to the lower court and allow the plaintiff’s legal challenge to the law proceed.
Citing $1 million a day of wasted federal dollars, the American Civil Liberties Union called on President Joe Biden’s administration on Wednesday to close 39 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities across the U.S., including the Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral. The federal government has been paying for the empty bed spaces at these facilities, almost all run by privately-owned companies, which the ACLU called “wasting” taxpayer money. The ACLU established a criteria for the 39 facilities it is calling on the federal government to close. In its statement, issued Wednesday, the ACLU said that Otero County Processing Center (OCPC) was included because of its “extensive record of civil rights violations and inhumane treatment.”
The letter, sent to The Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, urged the secretary to announce his intention to close ICE detention facilities across the country. “With lower ICE arrest rates and already reduced levels of detention arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, ICE is currently paying to maintain thousands of empty beds at enormous taxpayer expense—wasting hundreds of millions of dollars that would be better spent on alternatives to detention and other programmatic priorities,” the letter states.
After a year of legal fighting over mifepristone, the Food and Drug Administration has reversed itself, allowing the abortion medication to be prescribed during the COVID-19 pandemic through telehealth. The FDA, under the Donald Trump administration, would not allow mifepristone to be prescribed through telehealth, citing safety concerns, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of 20-year-old regulations around mifepristone, patients are normally required to travel to a clinic to pick up the pill. But, the pill can be safely taken at home. In the spring of 2020, after the COVID-19 pandemic began, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the FDA on behalf of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG).
With a new set of members in the state Senate, a bill to repeal the New Mexico 1969 abortion ban is expected to be filed in the upcoming New Mexico Legislature. Six Democrats who support abortion rights beat Republicans in November, in some cases after defeating anti-abortion Democrats in June’s primary, for state Senate seats, tipping the balance of power further to the left in the upper chamber. The state Senate defeated the 2019 effort to repeal the antiquated state law that bans abortion with few exceptions. Related: State Senate shifts left with progressive wins
Of the eight Democrats who sided with Republicans on the repeal vote two years ago, only two remain: state Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, and state Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas. Incoming state Senators Carrie Hamblen, Siah Correa Hemphill and Leo Jaramillo, all progressive Democrats who ran on reproductive health, defeated their incumbent Democrat opponents in the primary and then won again in November against their Republican challengers.