With five out of seven grassroots challengers winning seats in the state Senate, some of which were historic upsets, activists said on Wednesday the wins are a “mandate” for reproductive healthcare. With most precincts reporting for the primary, five grassroots progressive Democratic challengers won over mostly long-established incumbent Democrats who were moderate or conservative-leaning, according to unofficial results. All seven of the incumbent state Senate Democrats voted against HB 51, a bill that would have repealed the 1969 abortion ban.
Marshall Martinez, New Mexico field director for Forward Together Action, said that the challengers openly spoke about HB 51 and publicly supported it, which now that so many of the challengers have won, makes abortion rights a “mandate” for the next legislative session.
“The challengers named HB 51 as a key reason they ran. New Mexicans have said very clearly access to reproductive health, including abortion, is a priority,” Martinez said. Sarah Taylor-Nanista, executive director of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains Action Fund, called the five wins “an important step” toward repealing the 1969 law. Abortion rights activists are concerned that with a conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, the court will overturn Roe v. Wade.
District Senate 38 Democratic candidate Carrie Hamblen got a boost last week in her bid to defeat incumbent state senate candidate and President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen. That’s because the race narrowed to two candidates – Papen and Hamblen – last week when healthcare professional and entrepreneur Tracy Perry dropped out, citing health reasons. Hamblen, who was the morning radio host for National Public Radio local member station KRWG for 20 years, would have likely split the more left leaning Democratic voters in District 38 with Perry. But Hamblen said the race is now, “more of a challenge for Senator Papen.”
Perry’s name will remain on the ballot. Hamblen is one of seven progressive Democrats running for state senate seats in the upcoming June 2 primary against a group of more conservative-leaning Democrats.
With a vote of 6-0, Democrats on the House Taxation and Revenue Committee passed a bill that advocates say would help the uninsured and the underinsured. No Republicans voted on HB 278. Committee co-chair Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, tried to go to a vote at one point but then appeared to stall. He asked Rep. Deborah Armstrong, also a Democrat from Albuquerque, to talk more about the bill. A few advocates of the bill ran out of the hearing to try to find more Democrats who could return to the hearing.
Planned Parenthood is expanding to El Paso for the first time in nearly 10 years, which supporters say will make abortion access easier for women in Southern New Mexico. Marshall Martinez, the public affairs manager for Planned Parenthood Votes New Mexico, told NM Political Report while it still isn’t convenient for people in Las Cruces to drive to El Paso, the new clinic will be an additional resource for southern New Mexico. “This would provide an additional point of access, closer than Albuquerque, which is needed for the community down there,” Martinez said. Planned Parenthood currently has two clinics that provide abortion services in New Mexico. One in Albuquerque, and the other in Santa Fe.
During a sit-down earlier this month in the sparse Albuquerque administrative office for Planned Parenthood of New Mexico, CEO Vicki Cowart wondered aloud if the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision had lulled much of the public into taking legal abortion for granted. Here in New Mexico, abortion access has been solidly maintained by decades of activism by rights proponents and their collaborations with supportive elected officials. “Two generations of women have grown into adults with this not being an issue,” said Cowart. Yet two generations of women have seen gradual rollbacks in abortion rights and access in many other states across the country, where anti-abortion activists intent on ending the practice have been doggedly, methodically successful. Read this story’s companion piece, “NM state law, the U.S. Supreme Court and abortion access” here.
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has served as a swing vote in the U.S. Supreme Court on some issues including the decision not to overturn Roe v. Wade, but a new, more conservative replacement could change that. If the ruling is overturned, each state would decide on the legality of abortion. New Mexico is one of ten states where a pre-Roe law means abortion would be illegal if the landmark case were overturned. Overturning Roe v. Wade has been a conservative goal for decades and Students for Life President Kristan Hawkins told NPR this week that Kennedy’s retirement pushed them on the brink of success. “In New Mexico, we have an old statute on the books from pre Roe v. Wade,” explained State Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces.
After a long committee meeting and often-times emotional testimony from the public on a controversial bill to ban abortions on pregnancies of 20 or more weeks of gestation, lawmakers on the Senate Public Affairs Committee quickly tabled the legislation on a party line vote. Neither the committee chair nor vice chair—Sens. Jerry Ortiz y Pino or Bill O’Neill, both Democrats from Albuquerque—nor any of the three Republican members actually spoke about the issue during debate. And the three remaining Democrats—Sens. Mimi Stewart of Albuquerque, Liz Stefanics of Santa Fe and Jeff Steinborn of Las Cruces—kept their comments on the issue succinct before joining their other Democratic colleagues to table the bill.
A crowd of supporters wearing pink gathered at the Planned Parenthood clinic on San Mateo Boulevard in Albuquerque Saturday morning in anticipation of a day of canvassing in the North Valley. “On Nov. 8, pussy grabs back, and we’re not afraid to say it,” Marshall Martinez, public affairs manager of Planned Parenthood Votes New Mexico, said to a cheering crowd in a reference to Donald Trump’s infamous 2005 hot mic video leaked from Access Hollywood earlier this month. The rally and day of canvassing is part of a larger “Pink Out The Vote” sponsored by Planned Parenthood across the country. “We know what’s at stake,” New Mexico Democratic Party Chairwoman Debra Haaland said at the rally.
In a campaign season dominated by Donald Trump’s comments on groping women and several allegations against him of doing so, media attention on traditionally hot-button electoral issues like abortion access has been relegated to the side. But that doesn’t mean advocates aren’t using the issue of abortion to influence elections this year. On the local level, two political action committees on opposing sides of abortion rights are injecting thousands of dollars to influence down-ballot races. Planned Parenthood Votes New Mexico, for example, raised $10,000 to target four hotly contested state legislative races that could help decide which party controls the state House of Representatives and state Senate. The Right to Life Committee of New Mexico PAC, on the other hand, has spent more than $4,500 in the primaries and general election to encourage its base, which opposes abortion rights, to vote in a year that’s expected to be an uphill climb for Republicans.