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.
The swift-moving bill to decriminalize abortion care heads next to the House floor after passing the House Judiciary Committee 8 to 4 Friday. HB 7, sponsored by state Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena, D-Mesilla, passed along party lines after a three-hour long committee meeting devoted solely to the bill. State representatives on both sides of the aisle repeatedly thanked one another for a respectful debate despite ideological differences on the issue. The arguments both for and against the bill that will, if passed, repeal a statute that banned abortion in 1969 except under very special circumstances, have remained the same throughout the process. HB 7 will not change the way abortion care is performed currently but many members of the public who are against the bill continue to express fear that medical care providers will be forced to perform abortions despite their personal moral convictions.
Unlike 2019 when the New Mexico State Senate blocked repealing the 1969 abortion ban, more than half of the 2021 state Senate have signed on to cosponsor SB 10, this year’s effort. SB 10, sponsored by state Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, is a bill that will run parallel to HB 7, sponsored by state House Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena, D-Mesilla. Co-sponsor and Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D- Santa Fe, said during a press conference Monday morning held by Respect New Mexico Women, a coalition of nonprofit organizations, that 25 state senators have signed onto the bill for the 2021 Legislature.
The Senate bill was scheduled to be heard in its first committee Monday afternoon. “This shows how far we’ve come with this legislation,” Wirth said, alluding to the 2019 repeal effort which failed when eight state Senate Democrats sided with Republicans to defeat the bill. One of those Democrats died while in office and five of the others lost to more progressive Democrats in 2020 primaries, three of whom won in the general election.
A bill to protect Native American children so they can remain within their tribal communities and extended families will be pre-filed in the state Legislature in January, supporters say. The bill, still in draft form, will codify the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) into state law if it’s passed by the state Legislature next year. The U.S. Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act into law in 1978 but it is too often not enforced, according to experts working on the state law. Because of implicit bias against Native Americans, Native children are often removed from the home when a white child in an identical situation is not, said Donalyn Sarracino, director of Tribal Affairs for the Office of the Secretary for Child, Youth and Families Department and of the Pueblo of Acoma. She said this is a national problem and that, in some cases, the rate of removals of Native children from their families is sometimes four times higher than white children removals.
Spurred by accounts of an Albuquerque hospital found to discriminate against Native pregnant women in the early months of the pandemic, a group of reproductive experts formed a guideline on perinatal care during emergencies. Charlene Bencomo, executive director of the nonprofit Bold Futures, said the news stories of an Albuquerque hospital that was found to discriminate against Native women based on the zip codes they lived in earlier in the pandemic brought the group of 12 New Mexico-based organizations together over the summer to produce the guidelines. The 10-page document called Perinatal Emergency Recommendations, Considering Disparities and Outcomes: COVID-19 and Beyond, offers comprehensive information for health care providers on how to care for pregnant people who are Indigenous, Black, Latinx and people of color, Bencomo said. Several doula, breastfeeding, midwife, birthing centers and other organizations that provide midwife, doula and other reproductive care participated in the guidelines. The guidelines range from prenatal care to labor and delivery to postpartum care, including breastfeeding.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of abortion rights Monday and struck down a Louisiana law in June Medical Services LLC v. Russo, but the “win” could be short-lived, say abortion rights advocates. The 5-4 decision brought an end to the legal battle over whether Louisiana’s 2014 law, that forced abortion providers in that state to obtain admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic, is constitutional. The court, through Justice Stephen Breyer’s opinion, noted that the Louisiana law poses a “substantial obstacle,” to women seeking abortion, offered no significant health-related benefits nor showed evidence of how the law would improve the health and safety of women. But, Chief Justice John Roberts, who sided with the more liberal wing of the court, wrote a concurrence in which he made clear he only voted in favor of June Medical Services because of precedent. The court decided an almost identical case involving a Texas Law four years ago with Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt.