U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján and U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury, both Democrats, spoke to state legislators during a joint legislative session Tuesday. Luján spoke about bipartisan legislative efforts at the federal level, his recovery from a stroke he suffered last year and what legislating means to him. “That’s what this body is, incredible leaders from all over New Mexico, every small town, village, big town and big city,” Luján said. “A big part of what we do together is navigating those challenges when it comes to constituent casework one at a time. One person at a time, one family at a time.
Note: Every year, we count down the top ten stories of the year, as voted on by NM Political Report staffers. See our entire countdown of 2022 top stories, to date, here. A Blue Wave came to New Mexico in November with Democrats winning all three federal congressional seats for the third time since 1982 when New Mexico was granted a third congressional district. 1st Congressional District incumbent Democrat Melanie Ann Stansbury easily won reelection against Republican challenger Michelle Garcia Holmes and Independent write-candidate Victoria L. Gonzales. Stansbury won 56 percent of the vote while Garcia Holmes won 44 percent and Gonzales received less than 1 percent with 58 votes in her favor.
The U.S. House passed the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that protects same sex and interracial marriage, on Thursday. The bill previously passed the U.S. Senate. President Joe Biden is expected to sign it. He has expressed his support, saying “love is love,” in a previous statement. The U.S. Senate passed the bill with bipartisan support, with 61 to 36 votes last week when 12 Republicans joined Democrats in voting for its passage.
U.S. House of Representatives Melanie Stansbury, a Democrat who represents New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, held a rally with Assistant House Speaker Katherine Clark, from Massachusetts on Thursday. The rally, which took place at an office building on the east side of Albuquerque, was part of an effort to whip up voter support in New Mexico.
It was the second visit to Albuquerque by a high profile Democrat this week. On Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris held a talk about reproductive rights with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, another Democrat who is up for reelection in November. Stansbury made connections between being what she called a “pro-choice” candidate with also believing in science and democracy. Stansbury did not refer to her Republican opponent by name, but she is facing a challenge from Republican Michelle Garcia Holmes.
Vice President Kamala Harris said during an event in New Mexico on Tuesday that the fight around reproductive rights in the United States will affect women all over the world. Harris stopped in Albuquerque to talk with Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and University of New Mexico Professor and Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Family Planning Fellowship Director Dr. Eve Espey about protecting reproductive rights. The moderated discussion took place in front of a packed house of about 250 people at the University of New Mexico’s Keller Hall in the Center for the Arts and Arts Museum. Harris said people around the world watch what is happening politically in the U.S. She said former German Chancellor Angela Merkel leaned over during a conversation about Russia and China and asked Harris about what is happening with voting rights in the U.S.
“My fear on this issue is that dictators around the world will say to their people who are fighting for rights, ‘you want to hold out America as the example?’ Look at what they just did; be quiet,’” she said. “I highlight the significance of this moment and the impact, which not only directly impacts the people of our nation but very likely impacts people around the world.”
Harris highlighted her mother’s career, saying that her mother was one of the very few women of color researching breast cancer in her era.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas joined and a coalition of 21 attorneys general signed onto an amicus brief in support of Fund Texas Choice v. Paxton, a lawsuit waged to protect abortion access in other states from Texas anti-abortion laws. New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, a Democrat, joined 20 other attorneys general in signing the “friend of the court” brief supporting a Texas abortion fund fighting a legal battle to protect interstate travel for abortion care. The brief, filed on Friday, supports the abortion fund’s motion to halt Texas abortion laws that violate the constitutional right to interstate travel by impeding pregnant individuals in Texas from crossing state lines to seek an abortion. According to the motion, Texas’ abortion laws unlawfully interfere with the constitutional right to interstate travel. One of the concerns, according to the brief, is that thousands of individuals who are residents of states such as New Mexico, where abortion is legal, could be living in Texas for college, graduate school or serving as temporary workers and could find themselves in need of an abortion.
Millions more travel to Texas as visitors, and they, too, could be in need of abortion care while traveling.
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. House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday by a 228 to 195 vote that would codify the right to contraception into law, but its future in the U.S. Senate is uncertain. All Democrats in the House voted in support of the bill. Most Republicans opposed it, but eight voted in favor. HR 8373, would codify into law the right to contraception and the right of healthcare providers to provide it and information about it. When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last month, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring dissenting opinion stating that all rights based on the 14th Amendment’s right to privacy, including the right to contraception, should be revisited by the court.
With bipartisan support, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to enshrine marriage equality into legislation on Tuesday by repealing the Defense of Marriage Act. The House voted 267 in favor with 157 Republicans voting no. All 220 Democrats voted in support of the repeal and 47 Republicans crossed the aisle to vote with them. H.R. 8404, the Respect for Marriage Act, included protections for interracial marriage as well. It would protect marriage equality if the court overturns Obergefell v. Hodges.
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.