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 day before the deadline to sign bills, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the capital outlay bill, which includes a $10 million pledge to build a full-spectrum reproductive health clinic in Las Cruces. HB 505 contains $1.2 billion worth of projects to be built across the state. Among those is Lujan Grisham’s $10 million pledge to build a full-spectrum reproductive health care clinic in Las Cruces. Lujan Grisham announced the pledge last summer, a few months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade when it ruled against a Mississippi abortion clinic that provided abortions up to 16 weeks. Several organizations have partnered to begin discussions on the future clinic.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation that protects providers and patients from out-of-state efforts to criminalize or penalize through civil court the right to abortion in New Mexico. SB 13, Reproductive Health Provider Protections, codifies into law Lujan Grisham’s executive order announced last summer, just days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade through its Dobbs decision. It also protects those providing and seeking gender-affirming care. The new law, sponsored by state Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, carries penalties of $10,000 for a violation. It prohibits state agencies from participating in an out-of-state effort to seek information about or from abortion or gender-affirming care providers.
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.
Sen. Martin Heinrich’s guest for President Joe Biden’s 2023 State of the Union address held Tuesday evening during a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol building was a reproductive justice leader in New Mexico. Heinrich invited Charlene Bencomo, a Chicana New Mexican and executive director of Las Cruces-based Bold Futures, to be his special guest at the State of the Union address. Heinrich said through a news release that he chose Bencomo “in part to recognize her advocacy and deep commitment in New Mexico to build communities where women, people and families can live and thrive with respect and dignity, but also to underscore the work that still lies ahead.”
“Charlene is a lifelong New Mexican and a driving force for change. She uses her work and life experiences to educate, inspire, and inform others. Her leadership has been central to reproductive rights advancements in our state and across the country.
A new full-spectrum reproductive health clinic in Las Cruces is still, at least, a few years from becoming a reality, said Bold Futures Executive Director Charlene Bencomo. Within a few months of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade through its Dobbs decision in late June, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced a second reproductive executive order, pledging $10 million toward a reproductive health care clinic in Doña Ana County. The pledge will be in the capital outlay bill in the 2023 Legislative session, Lujan Grisham’s Press Secretary Nora Meyers Sackett, told NM Political Report.
Bencomo said the clinic will be in Las Cruces and that it is still in the “fundraising stage.” She said that, in part, because the goal is for the clinic to be innovative in challenging health care norms, it’s hard to say at this point how long it will be before the clinic will be fully operational. She said the partners, of which Bold Futures is one, who are behind the clinic want to “leave behind what’s not working in the healthcare system and build something new.”
The project has formed an advisory board made up of 13 members. A group of individuals interested in the project, including Bencomo, Adriann Barboa, representing Strong Families New Mexico, Dr. Eve Espey, representing the University of New Mexico Health and Sciences Center, Adrienne Mansanares, executive director of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and Gina Deblassie, health policy advisor for Lujan Grisham, gathered last week to discuss the project publicly. Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains told NM Political Report in an email that it is “working closely with the local partners in Las Cruces to envision and establish this health center, and we plan to be involved in a meaningful way now and in the future.”
The University of New Mexico said to NM Political Report in an email that UNM Health and Health Sciences is one of the entities collaborating on the clinic.
Whole Women’s Health, an abortion provider in Texas as well as other states, is trying to raise more than $700,000 to move to New Mexico. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade last month, some abortion providers in states hostile to reproductive care have begun making plans to relocate to New Mexico, where abortion remains safe and legal. Whole Women’s Health had to shut down its four remaining clinics due to a Texas trigger ban that the state is fighting to implement since the nation’s high court overturned the 1973 landmark decision. This week the organization announced it is making plans to open a new clinic in a border town in New Mexico. Andrea Ferrigno, corporate vice president for Whole Women’s Health, told NM Political Report that two Whole Women’s Health providers already licensed and working in the state have been providing virtual abortion care for patients both in and out of state for nearly a year.
If the Supreme Court’s leaked draft decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization becomes reality in late June or early July, New Mexico will remain what some have called “a beacon” of legal abortion care. The state legislature passed and the governor signed last year the Respect New Mexico Women and Families Act, which repealed old language from the criminal code banning abortion in 1969. While the antiquated language had not been enforceable since 1973, many policy makers worked to pass the repeal of the old ban before a conservative-leaning state challenged Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court level. State Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces, who was the lead sponsor on a previous version of the Respect New Mexico Women and Families Act, told NM Political Report that because of that “foresight,” to “fight forward” the state now doesn’t have to “fight backwards” on abortion rights. She said that, at this time, she is not preparing legislation for further protections on abortion in the state for the next session, beginning in 2023, because of the successful repeal of the ban in 2021.
The leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court decision on the case that appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade woke up many on Tuesday to a “shocking” reality which may be imminent. Politico released on Monday a leaked draft document, dated February from the Supreme Court. The document is a majority opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case the court heard in early December. Because the document is still a draft, there is still opportunity for the court to rule differently in late June or early July, though it appears unlikely with the current makeup of the court. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito authored the draft, which overturns Roe v. Wade and rules in favor of the state of Mississippi in the Dobbs case.
Vicki Cowart, president and chief executive officer for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, was once thrown out of a business club in Caspar, Wyoming, for being a woman. It was a different time then, one in which job interviewers didn’t hesitate to ask women if they planned to have children and, if so, would they keep working, she said. Now such questions would be considered discriminatory and, potentially, actionable but Cowart, who has been leading PPRM since 2003, said facing repeated discrimination as a young professional, reading feminist literature and participating as an activist in her off time is why the last half of her career has been devoted to ensuring pregnant people have access to abortion in New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada. Cowart announced earlier this fall her plans to retire. She said she intends to continue until the board has found a replacement.