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.
The city of Alamogordo passed a resolution on Tuesday designating the town of 31,000 as a “sanctuary city for the unborn,” despite more public opposition to the resolution than support for it. Of the public comments, 105 members of the public were opposed while 82 spoke in favor. Last month the Otero County commissioners passed a resolution declaring the county as a sanctuary for the unborn. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico sent letters to both the city and the county with warnings that any attempt to prevent abortion in New Mexico is in violation of the state’s constitution and that the organization would pursue civil action. During an anti-abortion rally in Las Cruces last month, one speaker from Mississippi told the crowd that the way to turn New Mexico into an anti-abortion state was to start with the passage of a teenage consent law.
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.
Two states are considering laws – one that supports abortion rights and one that doesn’t – that attempt to reach out of their states’ jurisdictions. One bill, California’s AB 1666, protects Californians from Texas SB 8 and other copycat state laws prohibiting “aiding or abetting” an abortion in states where abortion is banned or restricted, such as Texas. The legislation seeks to explicitly protect Californians from Texas’ legal scheme, which enables anyone to sue those who help a Texas individual to obtain an abortion after six weeks of gestation. If passed, one possible way the bill could be applied would be if an entity or individual sued a California individual who made a donation to a Texas fundraising organization that helped a Texas abortion patient go out of state for their reproductive healthcare. Ellie Rushforth, an attorney with American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, said that so far, the Texas SB 8 law has not been “weaponized” in that way.
A U.S. Supreme Court decision this week on an abortion issue has larger repercussions for constitutional rights, advocates say. In an 8-1 decision, the court ruled in favor of allowing Republican Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron to readdress a Kentucky abortion ban already resolved under Democrat Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s administration. A Kentucky bill prohibiting medical professionals from performing surgical abortion became law under a Repbulican administration. But under a new Democratic administration, the state of Kentucky dropped the appeal process in 2019 and the law, declared unconstitutional by a lower court, did not go into effect. Cameron, who had not been a part of the original lawsuit, then asked to appeal the lower court’s decision that the Kentucky law is unconstitutional.
The Federal Drug Administration ruled on Thursday that it would permanently lift restrictions around abortion patients receiving medication abortion by mail. This means, for instance, that abortion patients who live in places such as rural New Mexico can receive mifepristone, the first of the two-drug abortion regime, by mail. The FDA has maintained a restriction on in-person pickup of mifepristone at a clinic since the agency approved the drug for abortion 21 years ago. Reproductive experts have said that was a political move as, after 21 years, there were clear indications that taking medication abortion up to 10 weeks of gestation is safe. Ellie Rushforth, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, said by text message that the FDA’s decision is “good news” for patients but some restrictions for clinics still apply.