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.
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.
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 Planned Parenthood clinic in Albuquerque added medication abortion care to its options this month, creating a sixth clinic in New Mexico to offer some level of abortion care in the state. Adrienne Mansanares, the new president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, told NM Political Report that in addition to the expanded care at the Northeast Heights clinic, she is hopeful that PPRM will also be able to formally announce a larger clinic in Albuquerque sometime later this year, as well. Mansanares said the expanded care at the Northeast Heights clinic will enable PPRM to help with both the needs of the local community, patients traveling from other areas of New Mexico that lack abortion care access and continue to serve people coming from other states, such as Texas. Mansanares, who was the chief experience officer for PPRM beginning in 2016, stepped into her new position to replace Vicki Cowart, who announced her retirement last fall.
Cowart said through a news release that she couldn’t “think of a more passionate, dedicated and forward-thinking leader” than Mansanares. “The impact Adrienne has had on this organization cannot be overstated, and PPRM will be in strong, talented, and innovative hands under her leadership,” Cowart said.
The Federal Drug Administration ruled on Thursday that it would permanently lift restrictions around abortion patients receiving medication abortion by mail. This means, for instance, that abortion patients who live in places such as rural New Mexico can receive mifepristone, the first of the two-drug abortion regime, by mail. The FDA has maintained a restriction on in-person pickup of mifepristone at a clinic since the agency approved the drug for abortion 21 years ago. Reproductive experts have said that was a political move as, after 21 years, there were clear indications that taking medication abortion up to 10 weeks of gestation is safe. Ellie Rushforth, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, said by text message that the FDA’s decision is “good news” for patients but some restrictions for clinics still apply.
In a narrow ruling that leads to a limited way forward in the fight to stop Texas SB 8, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against one lawsuit, parsed the other and denied the Biden administration’s request to put Texas SB 8 law on hold. The Supreme Court heard two separate arguments in early November around Texas SB 8, which allows anyone to sue a provider or person who “aids and abets” a Texas abortion patient to receive an abortion in the state after six weeks of gestation. Reproductive rights officials who held a press conference after the high court’s decision on Friday spoke of the “chilling effect” this law has had on providers inside the state and the stress it has put on providers in other states, including New Mexico, to provide abortion care for patients coming from Texas in addition to the patients in their own states. Around 55,000 people in Texas receive an abortion in that state annually prior to the Texas law going into effect in early September. In New Mexico, around 3,000 people receive an abortion each year, on average.
The U.S. Supreme Court appears likely to overturn Roe v. Wade or “effectively” overturn it, legal experts said on Wednesday after the court heard oral arguments on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. The much-anticipated court case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, went before the court Wednesday for a two-hour oral argument. The state of Mississippi banned abortion at 15 weeks in 2019 and asked the court specifically to overturn the 1973 landmark decision. Ellie Rushforth, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, said that, after listening to the court Wednesday morning, it seemed clear that the justices, “regardless of the arguments presented by the attorneys today are pretty well settled in their minds on this issue.”
Six of the nine justices are conservative and several have spoken explicitly or made previous rulings indicating that they oppose abortion. “It was pretty clear by the questions the justices asked and the way they were talking to one another that we don’t have the size necessary to uphold Roe as it stands today,” Rushforth said.
Vicki Cowart, president and chief executive officer for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, was once thrown out of a business club in Caspar, Wyoming, for being a woman. It was a different time then, one in which job interviewers didn’t hesitate to ask women if they planned to have children and, if so, would they keep working, she said. Now such questions would be considered discriminatory and, potentially, actionable but Cowart, who has been leading PPRM since 2003, said facing repeated discrimination as a young professional, reading feminist literature and participating as an activist in her off time is why the last half of her career has been devoted to ensuring pregnant people have access to abortion in New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada. Cowart announced earlier this fall her plans to retire. She said she intends to continue until the board has found a replacement.
The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Friday it would hear oral arguments regarding a restrictive Texas anti-abortion law on Nov. 1. But, on the same date, Oklahoma is expected to enact three highly restriction abortion laws. The laws are medically unnecessary, Adrienne Mansanares, chief experience officer of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, told NM Political Report. Reproductive rights groups have sued Oklahoma and, while a judge struck down two of the original five anti-abortion laws earlier in October, the courts are still considering the other three under appeal.
As Texas abortion rights yo-yo in the courts, one Planned Parenthood doctor said the volume in patients coming from Texas has not changed. Last week a federal Texas judge placed a temporary injunction on SB 8, the Texas law that bans abortion at six weeks, at the U.S. Department of Justice’s request. The DOJ is suing Texas over the law. But within 48 hours after the injunction, the 5th US Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s injunction, making abortion illegal in the state of Texas, again, after six weeks gestation. According to national media, the DOJ has appealed and is asking the courts to reconsider placing an injunction on the ban.