Abortion rights protestors rally in Washington D.C.

Whole Women’s Health opens clinic in Albuquerque, calls providing abortion care in the U.S. ‘human rights work’

In an unprecedented time in the reproductive healthcare landscape, one new Albuquerque abortion provider called providing abortions in the U.S. human rights work. Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and chief executive officer for Whole Women’s Health, talked to NM Political Report at length about what it took to relocate from Texas, where the nonprofit organization operated clinics in four cities, to Albuquerque last month. 

Whole Women’s Health, which previously ran clinics in the Texas cities of Austin, Fort Worth, McAllen and McKinney, opened its first clinic in Albuquerque near the airport on March 23. 

Whole Women’s Health is largely associated with Texas because it launched a lawsuit in 2013 to litigate a state TRAP [Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers] law requiring abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. 

In 2016 the U.S. Supreme Court heard Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt and opined that the state restriction was medically unnecessary and ruled in favor of Whole Women’s Health. In addition to Texas, the provider also operates clinics in Virginia, Maryland, Minnesota, Indiana and now, for the first time, New Mexico. Whole Women’s Health is part of a growing trend of abortion providers opening or relocating to New Mexico, which is now considered a safe haven state for abortion rights. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s pledge of $10 million to help open a full-spectrum reproductive healthcare clinic in Las Cruces was part of the capital outlay bill, in this past legislative session. 

But the road was long to get here, Hagstrom Miller said. 

“It’s been a really challenging year,” she said.“We have clinics or programs in six states so we’re not only in Texas.

Court temporarily blocks local anti-abortion regulations

The New Mexico Supreme Court halted anti-abortion ordinances pending a review on if they comply with a new state law. 

The court issued a stay to the counties of Roosevelt and Lea and the municipalities of Hobbs and Clovis on abortion-regulating ordinances on Friday. The court’s action comes in response to New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez’s filing a stay request with the court and the court is requesting all parties to file briefs regarding what effect the Reproductive  and Gender-Affirming Health Care Freedom Act has on the local anti-abortion regulations they passed in the last five months. The Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Health Care bill, recently signed into law by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, was designed to end what bill sponsor, state Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Santa Fe, frequently referred to as a “patchwork” of abortion access around the state. The new law prohibits local bodies from discriminating against abortion care and gender-affirming healthcare. The counties of Roosevelt and Lea and the Hobbs and Clovis passed anti-abortion ordinances in the last five months in an effort to make abortion medication, which is federally approved, from being sent by mail and to establish business license regulations for abortion clinics.

How the Legislature addressed child well being

New Mexico continues to rank at the bottom on child well being indexes, but the 2023 Legislature passed some bills that advocates say can make an impact on that low ranking. A child tax credit was included in the final omnibus tax package and it will help improve racial and gender equity, Amber Wallin, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, told NM Political Report. HB 547, the omnibus tax bill, underwent multiple conference committees but the New Mexico Child Tax Credit survived the negotiations. It will, among other things, provide up to $600 per child annually as a child tax credit for families earning $25,000 or less a year. For households earning $25,000 to $50,000, the annual child tax credit will be $400 per child and for households earning $50,000 to $75,000, the annual child tax credit will be $200 per child if Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signs the bill into law.

2023 legislative session a landmark one for the LGBTQ bills

The 2023 Legislature was a landmark session for LGBTQ bills, according to advocates. Marshall Martinez, executive director of Equality New Mexico, said three bills passed in the 2023 Legislature that make this past session a watershed moment for the LGBTQ community: A bill to add discrimination protections to LGBTQ residents, a bill to protect those practicing and seeking gender-affirming care and a bill to end the requirement to publicize a name change in the newspaper. Martinez said the two bills that are especially unique are the Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare Act and the Expansion of New Mexico Act. The Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare Act, sponsored by state Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Santa Fe, prohibits public bodies from discriminating against individuals seeking reproductive or gender-affirming healthcare. Hobbs and Clovis and Roosevelt and Lincoln counties have passed ordinances that both make it harder for reproductive health clinics that provide abortions  to apply for a business license and prohibit medication abortion prescriptions through the mail despite federal approval.

Legislature approved two major reproductive, gender-affirming care bills

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.

Committee tables Paid Family and Medical Leave bill, likely ending bill’s hopes this year

A House committee tabled a bill that would provide paid family and medical leave to workers statewide by a vote of 6-4 in the final week of the session, likely ending its ability to pass this Legislative session

The vote to table the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act was bipartisan, with some Democrats voting alongside Republicans to table the bill. SB 11, sponsored by Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, would have appropriated $36.5 million from the general fund to establish a program which would have allowed workers to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave from work for a new child or a serious medical condition. The opposition’s primary concern was that it would be too much of a burden on small business owners. There were also questions about the program’s ability to remain solvent. The bill’s Fiscal Impact Report states that the fund administered by the state would become insolvent by 2028.

First of two abortion right bills heads to Guv’s desk

The first of two reproductive healthcare bills heard by  the Legislature this session is headed to the Governor’s desk after a House vote. She is expected to sign the bill. 

HB 7, Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare, sponsored by state Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Santa Fe, passed the House previously but due to amendments added in the state Senate, it came back to the House for a concurrence vote on those amendments. Republicans asked a few questions during the House debate Friday night about who could be sued and why but it had little debate and passed by a vote of 39-29. The bill would bar any public body from discrimination against reproductive or gender-affirming care. This includes local governments who have already, or plan to, write ordinances to restrict abortion or gender-affirming care.

Reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare bill close to passing Legislature

A bill to prohibit public bodies from discriminating against individuals seeking reproductive or gender-affirming healthcare passed the state Senate on a 23 to 15 vote on Tuesday after a contentious debate. HB 7, Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Health Care, is sponsored by state Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Santa Fe. State Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque, who worked on the bill ahead of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, led the debate on the Senate floor. The bill generated a nearly three-hour debate over issues various Republicans have brought up previously in committee hearings: parental consent, the gender-affirming healthcare model, conscientious objections by medical providers and the definition of the term “perinatal.”

The bill prohibits public bodies and individuals acting on behalf of a public body from discriminating against individuals seeking reproductive or gender-affirming healthcare. This includes abortion.

Reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare bill heads to Senate floor next

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.

Bill to protect reproductive, gender-affirming care access advances

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.