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 New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, an abortion fund provider, is expanding its services to Las Cruces. Since the fall of Roe v. Wade in June, more than one reproductive healthcare organization has said it will open a new clinic in Las Cruces to help with what many have called a health care crisis. So far, some bans on abortion have become law in 17 states, including most neighboring states. This has increased the number of patients traveling to New Mexico seeking care. While Joan Lamunyon Sanford, executive director of NMRCRC, told NM Political Report that since Texas banned abortion after six weeks in September of last year, the abortion fund started receiving between 75 to 80 callers a month.
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 The state legislature passed and the governor signed last year the Respect New Mexico Women and Families Act, which repealed old language from the criminal code banning abortion in 1969.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.
A New Mexico abortion fund provider planned a coordinated effort to fly in more than 10 Texas abortion patients for one day of abortion care at an Albuquerque clinic last week. The effort is in response to Texas SB 8, which bans abortion after six weeks for people in Texas. New Mexico abortion providers have been stretched to accommodate the additional patients coming from Texas. Joan Lamunyon Sanford, executive director for New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, which staged what she called the group’s “first action,” said it was the beginning of the launch of Pastoral Care for Abortion Access. A Texas chaplain and a case manager also traveled on the flight with the patients.
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.
The Texas law, SB 8, that bans abortion after six weeks in that state, is called “the Texas Heartbeat Act.”
But there is no heart within the pregnant person’s womb at six weeks after conception, according to health experts. At roughly six weeks, a current of electrical activity begins in a cellular cluster. Abortion rights proponents argue that that is just one way that anti-abortion rhetoric supplies misinformation and disinformation. Anti-abortion groups also coopt the language of social justice movements, including the reproductive rights movement, reproductive rights advocates have said. Adriann Barboa, policy director for the nonprofit organization Forward Together, said some who oppose coronavirus vaccinations and mask mandates use phrases such as, “my body, my choice,” when arguing against getting vaccinated or wearing masks to protect against COVID-19.
An abortion provider in New Mexico said the increase in patients from Texas will no longer be manageable if it continues in the coming weeks. Adrienne Mansanares, chief experience officer for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, told NM Political Report that the group’s clinics are “not in crisis right now.”
But she said they are “in an unhealthy place” and it “won’t be manageable in the coming weeks if we continue to see the percentage increase from Texas.”
Mansanares said of the roughly 3,000 abortions that take place in New Mexico annually, Planned Parenthood provides about 700 of them. “What we saw in the first week [of September] is what we typically see in a month,” she said. She said there are about 55,000 abortions in Texas each year. Abortion clinics in New Mexico cannot continue to absorb the need from Texas abortion patients indefinitely, she said.
This month, New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, an Albuquerque-based abortion fund, has helped 28 patients get an abortion, up from 15 in September 2020 when fears of COVID-19 prevented travel and 21 in September 2019. And the month of September is not yet over, Brittany Defeo, New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice program manager, pointed out. The increase in demand is due to the Texas six-week gestational abortion ban that went into effect at the beginning of the month. Defeo said the coalition is the last abortion fund most patients apply to because what the coalition offers – help with accommodations and trips to the airport, bus or train station – are services needed by the most economically perilous who need an abortion later in pregnancy which requires an overnight stay. But because of the Texas law, the coalition is now seeing patients request their services even before 10 weeks of gestation because the patient needs to travel to New Mexico to take abortion medication.
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.