Note: Every year, we count down the top ten stories of the year, as voted on by NM Political Report staffers. See our entire countdown of 2022 top stories, to date, here
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in late June, marking a significant shift in decades of judicial decision-making as well as creating what many called a public health emergency. The court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturned nearly 50 years of precedent. The court said in its 6-3 opinion that it thought the decision should go back to the states to decide. The outcome of the decision has led to 44 states to ban or restrict abortion care in 2022, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights organization.
The U.S. House passed the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that protects same sex and interracial marriage, on Thursday. The bill previously passed the U.S. Senate. President Joe Biden is expected to sign it. He has expressed his support, saying “love is love,” in a previous statement. The U.S. Senate passed the bill with bipartisan support, with 61 to 36 votes last week when 12 Republicans joined Democrats in voting for its passage.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday by a 228 to 195 vote that would codify the right to contraception into law, but its future in the U.S. Senate is uncertain. All Democrats in the House voted in support of the bill. Most Republicans opposed it, but eight voted in favor. HR 8373, would codify into law the right to contraception and the right of healthcare providers to provide it and information about it. When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last month, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring dissenting opinion stating that all rights based on the 14th Amendment’s right to privacy, including the right to contraception, should be revisited by the court.
With bipartisan support, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to enshrine marriage equality into legislation on Tuesday by repealing the Defense of Marriage Act. The House voted 267 in favor with 157 Republicans voting no. All 220 Democrats voted in support of the repeal and 47 Republicans crossed the aisle to vote with them. H.R. 8404, the Respect for Marriage Act, included protections for interracial marriage as well. It would protect marriage equality if the court overturns Obergefell v. Hodges.
President Joe Biden signed an executive order earlier this month to expand equality for LGBTQIA+ individuals. The order is sweeping and involves several different federal agencies. It says that while the U.S. has advanced LGBTQIA+ rights in significant ways, much still needs to be done, particularly for transgender individuals and LGBTQIA+ individuals of color. Marshall Martinez, executive director of Equality New Mexico, said this is the “first time a sitting president has made such clear statements about queer and trans people.”
“It’s definitely a refreshing break from what we’ve been hearing and seeing so much of,” Martinez said. There has been an uptick of anti-trans bills introduced into state legislatures in recent years, according to LGTBQIA+ advocates.
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.
U.S. Senate Republicans voted 52 to 48 to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away Sept. 18. President Donald Trump held a celebration at the White House Monday evening after the Senate vote and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas swore her in at the White House to the lifetime position. Barrett’s confirmation received no support from Democrats who voiced their anger over her confirmation hearing over the weekend. All Democratic Senators voted against her, including both of those from New Mexico.
A court case that could affect anti-discrimination laws in New Mexico will soon be before the U.S. Supreme Court. The case, Fulton v. the City of Philadelphia, will be heard by the Supreme Court next month. The case involves a Catholic-based organization that sued the city of Philadelphia because the city refused to allow the organization to continue a contract to house youth in foster care because the organization discriminates against same-sex couples. Marshall Martinez, interim executive director of Equality New Mexico, said that if the case is decided by a conservative majority on the court, then a contractor who receives tax payer funding to provide, for instance, homeless shelter services or foodbank services through a government contract could refuse to house or provide food to queer or transgender people. Martinez said that if the court rules against the city of Philadelphia broadly and bases its opinion on a religious argument, then the case could be interpreted to allow one faith-based organization to discriminate against people of other faiths and deny services to people of other faiths.
A District Court in Maryland has 40 days to lift, modify or continue the order it previously made to allow the abortion medication mifepristone to be available through telehealth during the pandemic. The U.S. Supreme Court asked the lower court on Thursday to reconsider a case the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) brought against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the summer. ACOG wants the FDA to allow mifepristone to be available for abortion care through telehealth during the pandemic. Although the FDA approved mifepristone 20 years ago for abortion care, the FDA continues to regulate it as if it were a dangerous drug. The FDA argued in court that people should have to continue to pick up mifepristone at a health care provider during the pandemic.
New Mexico women who need contraception are likely safe for now despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision which will allow private companies to opt out of providing insurance coverage for it, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico. A recent law passed in New Mexico enables women in the state to continue contraceptive coverage despite the court’s decision which now enables private companies to deny contraception coverage by citing moral or religious objections. But, Ellie Rushforth, reproductive rights attorney for the ACLU-NM warned, the future is uncertain. “It doesn’t mean we’re fully insulated from future issues related to this,” she said. The Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s decision on Wednesday in the case, Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania.