Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and other providers could be opening up more brick-and-mortar abortion clinics near New Mexico state lines, one official with PPRM said. On the heels of the leaked U.S. Supreme Court document this week, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill Tuesday, effectively immediately, that initiated a Texas-style mechanism to make abortion unobtainable in that state at about six weeks gestation. The law would allow anyone to sue an organization or individual who “aids and abets” a patient receiving an abortion on or about six weeks gestation. Officials with Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains told NM Political Report earlier this week, before Politico reported on the U.S. Supreme Court draft decision indicating the court will likely overturn Roe v. Wade this summer, that what’s been happening in Oklahoma could be a precursor of what’s to come for New Mexico in the coming months. Earlier this year, Stitt signed a law that will outlaw the procedure entirely except in the event of a medical emergency, punishable as a felony and a $100,000 fine.
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 The state legislature passed and the governor signed last year the Respect New Mexico Women and Families Act, which repealed old language from the criminal code banning abortion in 1969.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.
The leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court decision on the case that appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade woke up many on Tuesday to a “shocking” reality which may be imminent. Politico released on Monday a leaked draft document, dated February from the Supreme Court. The document is a majority opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case the court heard in early December. Because the document is still a draft, there is still opportunity for the court to rule differently in late June or early July, though it appears unlikely with the current makeup of the court. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito authored the draft, which overturns Roe v. Wade and rules in favor of the state of Mississippi in the Dobbs case.
With a Supreme Court decision expected this summer on the Mississippi anti-abortion law most court watchers believe will overturn or gut protections granted by Roe v. Wade, Democrats and Republicans could find abortion playing a large role in the upcoming race for U.S. House representation in southern New Mexico. This summer, the U.S. Supreme Court will deliver its decision on Dobbs v. Whole Women’s Health. Mississippi passed a law in 2018 that outlawed abortion after 15 weeks. The one abortion provider in the state offers abortion up to 16 weeks. The law is not currently in effect in Mississippi because the lower courts struck it down as unconstitutional, but Mississippi asked the Supreme Court to hear the state’s appeal.
Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountain clinics, which includes those in New Mexico, experienced a 130 percent increase in patients coming from Texas since August. The organization held a press conference on Monday alongside elected officials from New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada to discuss how the six-week gestational abortion ban in Texas has impacted the health care provider across the three states. In New Mexico alone, Planned Parenthood clinics have served 50 Texas patients since the ban began on September 1, Neta Meltzer, director of strategic communications for PPRM, said. Vicki Cowart, president and chief executive officer for PPRM, said the average wait time for an appointment at a Planned Parenthood clinic in New Mexico is now 21 days. She said Texas patients have had to travel, on average, 650 miles one-way to access abortion.
In a tweet earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell equated abortion with eugenics. Herrell’s tweet on Monday was a response to a clip from an NBC broadcaster who was commenting that the state of Texas is “running over” women’s constitutional rights to obtain an abortion since that state’s six-week gestational ban went into effect at the beginning of September. “Of course, @JoeNBC is completely wrong. Abortion is not “enumerated” in the Constitution, specifically or otherwise, & its invention as a right in Roe v. Wade rests on garbage legal reasoning. America will be a better place when abortion joins eugenics on the ash heap of history,” she wrote in her tweet.
Abortion care providers in New Mexico expect an increase in patients if a court allows Texas’ six-week gestational ban to take effect in September. A group of Texas abortion fund and clinic providers filed suit in a Texas state court last week to stop the state’s new law from going into effect. But because the law is new territory, providers, abortion fund organizations and legal experts in New Mexico are watching to see if the court blocks the law with an injunction and, if not, how large the ripple effect could be felt in this neighboring state. Ellie Rushforth, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico called the Texas law not just unconstitutional but “sinister.”
“The point of this [Texas] law is to instill fear and place a bounty on the head of anyone who is providing abortion care or helping people get the care they need. It’s inviting and encouraging complete strangers to stake out and continue to harass abortion providers and networks of care,” she said.
The U.S. Health and Human Services Department and the American Civil Liberties Union agreed to put a lawsuit on hold late last week that could have longer term implications for the abortion medication mifepristone. On Friday the HHS, which oversees the Food and Drug Administration, filed in Hawaii district court a request to stay a lawsuit that has been ongoing around mifepristone since 2017. The ACLU, which also filed for the stay, is suing the U.S. Health and Human Services on behalf of a Hawaii clinician. The ACLU and the Hawaii clinician are suing because the FDA’s in-person pickup requirement for mifepristone requires patients in Hawaii to have to fly between islands to receive a single pill. Once a patient has picked up mifepristone at a clinic, they can go home to take it. The FDA requires abortion patients to travel to a clinic to pick up mifepristone because the abortion medication is under the FDA’s Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS), drug safety program intended for medications with serious safety concerns.
Mifepristone has been in the FDA’s REMS program since the FDA approved the prescription drug in 2000.
This week, the Joe Biden administration proposed to reverse a Donald Trump administration gag rule that affects how some family planning clinics provide abortion care information. Title X is a federal grant program that enables clinics to offer family planning services and preventive reproductive health care, primarily to low-income families who are uninsured or underinsured. New Mexico Department of Health family planning clinics, which receive Title X funding, provide contraception methods and related preventive health services including pre-conception health, sexually transmitted disease prevention education, screening, treatment and breast and cervical cancer screening, NMDOH spokesperson Jim Walton told NM Political Report by email. There are DOH family planning clinics in every county except Catron and Harding counties. Bernalillo County has 16 such clinics, Santa Fe County has seven, Doña Ana County has four and Rio Arriba County has three.
There are 20 clinic sites that contract with DOH to provide family planning services, including nine school-based health centers.
Planned Parenthood clinics in New Mexico are expanding telehealth medicine to include testing for sexually transmitted infections at home. Adrienne Mansanares, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains chief experience officer, said that since the COVID-19 pandemic, Planned Parenthood clinics are seeing fewer patients getting tested for sexually transmitted infections (STI). But, cases of STI continue to be on the rise, she said. “We can solve this issue. We can eradicate it by normalizing it and making sure people understand how common it is,” she told NM Political Report.