Despite abortion in New Mexico remaining legal and recent legislation to further protect care, municipalities and counties have passed more anti-abortion ordinances than other states that are considered pro-abortion. Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, told NM Political Report that attempts to pass similar ordinances have occurred in other states but no other state has had as many locales pass anti-abortion ordinances as New Mexico that are pro-abortion. Her group monitors anti-abortion ordinances passed at the local level around the U.S.
The town of Edgewood is the latest of six locales in New Mexico that have passed anti-abortion ordinances. The city council passed the ordinance at the end of an eight-hour public meeting last month. When asked if she thought New Mexico has become the new battleground for abortion rights, Miller said that “might be giving these things too much credence.”
“A very small proportion of these kinds of extreme measures are up against an overwhelming degree of support and elected officials are taking affirmative steps at the state level to not only safeguard access but also to expand it,” she said.
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a temporary stay on the appellate decision about the abortion medication drug mifepristone on Friday, but one abortion provider in New Mexico said her staff are already seeing fewer people request abortion medication when making appointments. Whole Women’s Health, formerly known for its work as an abortion provider in Texas, moved to a new location in Albuquerque last month. Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and chief executive officer of Whole Women’s Health, told NM Political Report that even though abortion medication remains legal in New Mexico, she and her staff have noticed a decline in patients requesting abortion medication when setting an appointment in the three weeks the clinic has been open in the state. Hagstrom Miller said the legal battle around abortion medication causes confusion for patients. She also said it increases the stigma around abortion and that is an equity issue.
Two separate lawsuits and decisions issued on the same day last week regarding the Federal Drug Administration and its approval and rules around the abortion medication mifepristone has caused confusion over the drug’s legality in the day since then, but a federal district judge in Washington state clarified the drug’s status as legal in New Mexico late on Thursday. Washington state federal district Judge Thomas Rice clarified that his decision last week to further lift FDA regulations on mifepristone will remain in effect in those 18 jurisdictions, including New Mexico, regardless of the conflicting decision released by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals late Wednesday night. Rice issued his clarification that his decision holds true for the 17 states and the District of Columbia less than 24 hours after the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans, determined that the FDA must return to how it regulated mifepristone prior to 2016. The attorneys general in 17 states and the District of Columbia sued the FDA earlier this year asking the agency to lift its remaining restrictions on the abortion medication mifepristone. Rice, in eastern Washington, ruled last Friday in favor of the plaintiffs but his ruling came on the same day as Texas federal district Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s rule against the FDA restricting mifepristone.
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 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.
The state Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill to protection abortion and gender-affirming health care rights by a 6-to-3 party line vote after a tense tie-breaking vote to amend the bill on Saturday. HB 7 is sponsored by state Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Santa Fe. She said the bill “ensures we’re not adding fear so that people don’t seek life-saving healthcare.”
“It prohibits public bodies from discriminating against individuals seeking reproductive or gender-affirming healthcare,” she said. The bill prevents public bodies, such as municipalities and counties, from passing or enforcing anti-abortion ordinances. Clovis, Hobbs, Lea and Roosevelt counties have passed such ordinances in recent months.
A bill to prohibit public bodies from discriminating against reproductive healthcare or gender-affirming health care passed the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee by 6-to-3 party line vote on Wednesday. HB 7, Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare, is sponsored by state Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Albuquerque. The bill would enable the attorney general or a district attorney to sue an entity responsible for blocking access to reproductive health or gender-affirming care. The court could apply remedies, including monetary damages. The court can also apply a $5,000 civil penalty or actual damages against the entity responsible for the discrimination.
A bill to prevent discrimination for individuals seeking abortion care or gender-affirming care in New Mexico cleared the House Health and Human Services Committee by 7-3 on Friday. HB 7, Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Health Care, is intended to protect individuals who seek abortion care and gender-affirming care from discrimination by any public body. Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Albuquerque, is the primary sponsor of the bill. The bill will head to the House Judiciary Committee next. The bill generated considerable public comment and committee debate. Questions came from three Republicans on the committee, Jenifer Jones of Deming, Stefani Lord of Sandia Park and Harlan Vincent of Ruidoso Downs.
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.
The New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, an abortion fund provider, is expanding its services to Las Cruces. Since the fall of Roe v. Wade in June, more than one reproductive healthcare organization has said it will open a new clinic in Las Cruces to help with what many have called a health care crisis. So far, some bans on abortion have become law in 17 states, including most neighboring states. This has increased the number of patients traveling to New Mexico seeking care. While Joan Lamunyon Sanford, executive director of NMRCRC, told NM Political Report that since Texas banned abortion after six weeks in September of last year, the abortion fund started receiving between 75 to 80 callers a month.