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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday for a Louisiana abortion law that could affect the entire country, including New Mexico. The nine justices on the court were asked to consider whether a Louisiana law that prohibits doctors who do not have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital to provide abortions conflicts with an identical Texas law the high Court struck down in 2016. The difference between the Texas case and the Louisiana one is who is sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court bench. Conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy sided with the liberal wing of the court in 2016 and the court struck down the Texas law. But since the U.S. Congress appointed Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the bench in 2018 after a controversial hearing, anti-abortion groups and abortion rights groups both anticipate that the 2016 ruling could be overturned.
A bill protecting pregnant workers nearly died on the Senate floor Tuesday night when a Democrat tried to introduce an amendment viewed as “unfriendly.” However, the Senate defeated the amendment and the bill itself passed unanimously. HB 25 seeks to protect pregnant workers and new moms in the workplace by amending the state Human Rights Act to include those employees. This would enable pregnant people and new moms to seek mitigation under the state’s Human Rights Commission if they feel they have been discriminated against if an employer refuses “unreasonable accommodations.”
An amendment that Senator Joseph Candelaria, a Democrat from Albuquerque, tried to attach to the bill took issue with the idea that pregnant workers and new moms belong under the Human Rights Act. Candelaria, who is openly gay, said the bill created a “new suspect class of people.” He did not want the Human Rights Act to be amended. He said the bill would “erode decades of civil rights litigation and protections” reserved for immutable aspects of a person such as sexual orientation.
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has served as a swing vote in the U.S. Supreme Court on some issues including the decision not to overturn Roe v. Wade, but a new, more conservative replacement could change that. If the ruling is overturned, each state would decide on the legality of abortion. New Mexico is one of ten states where a pre-Roe law means abortion would be illegal if the landmark case were overturned. Overturning Roe v. Wade has been a conservative goal for decades and Students for Life President Kristan Hawkins told NPR this week that Kennedy’s retirement pushed them on the brink of success. “In New Mexico, we have an old statute on the books from pre Roe v. Wade,” explained State Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces.