Representatives from the abortion fund provider Indigenous Women Rising told members of the Interim Indian Affairs Committee on Monday that their monthly abortion fund budget has doubled since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade. Jonnette Paddy, Diné and IWR abortion fund director, told the committee on Monday that IWR previously spent $20,000 a month providing abortion patients with help to obtain an abortion but in 2021, that expenditure rose to $40,000 a month. Paddy told the committee that in 2020, IWR served 58 clients but in 2021, when Texas’ six-week gestational ban went into effect, the grassroots organization served 277 clients. Paddy said that at that time, the organization began providing what she called solidarity funding to individuals who are unhoused, are later in pregnancy, are minors, undocumented or Black. In 2022, the year of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, IWR funded 600 clients, which represented a 116 percent increase over the previous year, she said.
Indigenous Women Rising, a grassroots group known for its abortion fund for Indigenous people, is expanding its services. IWR has long provided support to Native individuals who are birthing through a midwifery program alongside its abortion fund. But the organization’s new Emergence Fund will enable the group to expand its reach to Native birthing families across the country, Justin Lorenzo (Laguna Pueblo), midwifery fund director, said.
That will make IWR’s birthing program operate more in tandem with its abortion fund, which has offered support to Native individuals seeking abortion across the U.S. for some time.
Lorenzo said the Emergence Fund will cover midwifery care and doula care and will also help with other needed resources, such as diapers, breastfeeding and other birthing supplies. Department of Health spokesman David Morgan told NM Political Report via email that Medicaid pays for midwifery care and is “working on implementing a doula coverage benefit.”
“But, that is not in place, yet,” Morgan said. But, Lorenzo said that while the state’s Medicaid program covers midwifery, not all clinics in the state accept Medicaid.
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.
Indigenous Women Rising, an abortion fund in New Mexico, wrote an open letter to Lovelace Health Systems in Albuquerque calling on it to publicly end any relationship it has with an organization that runs crisis pregnancy centers. Care Net is a Christian-based nonprofit organization that tries to discourage pregnant individuals from abortion. Care Net runs 39 percent of the 31 CPCs in New Mexico. “These organizations have been reported by previous CPC clients to use coercive measures to pressure people out of obtaining abortions. Moreover, this extremist organization is anti-contraception, which indicates the organization does not support reproductive health options,” the letter states.
Although the media began focusing on the menstrual product shortage in recent weeks, grassroots organization Indigenous Women Rising have been focused on the shortage since at least the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rachel Lorenzo, Mescalero Apache/Laguna Pueblo/Xicana and co-founder of IWR, said that when Tribal governments began giving out COVID care packages at the start of the pandemic, IWR assessed the gaps and noticed items missing that affected menstruating individuals and babies. Lorenzo, who uses they/them pronouns, said IWR began supplying, free of charge, menstrual cups, discs and period panties to Indigenous menstruating people in the U.S. and Canada. “IWR started piloting a program to send reusable menstrual products to Indigenous people who are interested and [for whom] it might be out of reach financially and geographically,” they said. Lorenzo said this is not a “catchall” solution and the price problem remains persistent.
The 2022 federal reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act has been hailed as good news, but there are problems it doesn’t solve. President Joe Biden signed VAWA reauthorization earlier this spring. The last time U.S. Congress reauthorized it was in 2013. It is supposed to be reauthorized every five years. It provides millions of dollars to every state to help fund services to victims of gender-based violence.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito provided a history of abortion rights in the U.S. in his draft opinion for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. His narrative, aimed at why the medical procedure should no longer have federal protection, focused on states making the medical practice illegal in the late 1800s and early 1900s. But both Indigenous people and historians have a more nuanced narrative. Alito noted when each state in the U.S. codified laws regulating abortion. New Mexico outlawed the procedure in 1919.
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.
Medicaid covers the cost of abortion in New Mexico if the pregnant person is a legal resident. But undocumented people who reside in the state, many of whom are often vulnerable, lack Medicaid coverage to pay for abortion care, said Italia Aranda, a volunteer with Mariposa Fund. The fund helps undocumented pregnant people pay for an abortion. The fund came out of a need that a group of abortion providers in New Mexico recognized in 2016. “In order for a patient to receive money from Mariposa Fund, they have to seek services in New Mexico.
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.