On Wednesday, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced she will designate$10 million in executive capital outlay funding next year to develop a new clinic in Doña Ana County. Lujan Grisham is directing the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration to designate the $10 million in the upcoming 2023 legislative session for the new clinic. The New Mexico Department of Health will also develop a plan to leverage state resources to expand access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion, to underserved areas of the state to increase access and decrease wait times at abortion clinics. Lujan Grisham’s announcement was a part of her second executive order on reproductive healthcare since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in late June. The first order established that New Mexico would not cooperate with other state’s efforts to prosecute patients who travel to New Mexico and would protect providers who work in the state.
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.
Earlier this spring, the need for financial assistance to obtain an abortion caused abortion fund provider Indigenous Women Rising to take a break so the grassroots organization could “catch up” financially. The need was “so intense” IWR almost ran out of money, Rachel Lorenzo (Mescalero Apache/Laguna Pueblo/Xicana), co-founder of IWR, said. Lorenzo, who uses they/them pronouns, said that the group is still on break. But when IWR returns to funding abortion patients later this month, the organization will return to its original mission of providing abortion care funding to Indigenous individuals. Last year, in response to the Texas “vigilante” law that prohibits abortion in that state after six weeks, IWR broadened its funding to include undocumented individuals.
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.
A New Mexico abortion fund provider planned a coordinated effort to fly in more than 10 Texas abortion patients for one day of abortion care at an Albuquerque clinic last week. The effort is in response to Texas SB 8, which bans abortion after six weeks for people in Texas. New Mexico abortion providers have been stretched to accommodate the additional patients coming from Texas. Joan Lamunyon Sanford, executive director for New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, which staged what she called the group’s “first action,” said it was the beginning of the launch of Pastoral Care for Abortion Access. A Texas chaplain and a case manager also traveled on the flight with the patients.
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.
While abortion access at the national level has come under greater assault in recent years, some nonprofit groups on the front lines for reproductive healthcare are providing what is known as “TelAbortions” to New Mexicans through a study. A TelAbortion has the potential to simplify the process of terminating a pregnancy and some advocates say it could be the way of the future. To qualify, the patient needs to be less than 10 weeks pregnant. Through video conferencing over an electronic device, the patient speaks with the study’s health provider. After establishing that the patient is less than 10 weeks pregnant, the patient receives the two pills necessary – mifepristone and misoprostol – through the mail.
When New Mexico women are in a crisis and need to terminate a pregnancy, all too often they must drive hundreds of miles to reach a clinic that provides abortion. Clinics that provide abortions are only located in or around the three largest cities in New Mexico. While some obstetric and gynecological doctors as well as some general practitioners will perform an abortion privately, the vast majority of abortions are provided in specific clinics, Dr. Eve Espey, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, told NM Political Report.
When women seek an abortion, they are often in a time of crisis, she said. With more than one million women living in New Mexico, such limited resources for abortion services impacts a significant portion of women who are child-bearing age in the state. The problem disproportionately affects low-income women, rural women and women of color, Espey said.