New Mexico women who need contraception are likely safe for now despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision which will allow private companies to opt out of providing insurance coverage for it, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico. A recent law passed in New Mexico enables women in the state to continue contraceptive coverage despite the court’s decision which now enables private companies to deny contraception coverage by citing moral or religious objections. But, Ellie Rushforth, reproductive rights attorney for the ACLU-NM warned, the future is uncertain. “It doesn’t mean we’re fully insulated from future issues related to this,” she said. The Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s decision on Wednesday in the case, Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of abortion rights Monday and struck down a Louisiana law in June Medical Services LLC v. Russo, but the “win” could be short-lived, say abortion rights advocates. The 5-4 decision brought an end to the legal battle over whether Louisiana’s 2014 law, that forced abortion providers in that state to obtain admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic, is constitutional. The court, through Justice Stephen Breyer’s opinion, noted that the Louisiana law poses a “substantial obstacle,” to women seeking abortion, offered no significant health-related benefits nor showed evidence of how the law would improve the health and safety of women. But, Chief Justice John Roberts, who sided with the more liberal wing of the court, wrote a concurrence in which he made clear he only voted in favor of June Medical Services because of precedent. The court decided an almost identical case involving a Texas Law four years ago with Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to make major reproductive health care decisions early next week. Monday and Tuesday will be the final two days this term that the justices will issue opinions, according to the Supreme Court’s blog. Historically, the court has handed down decisions on abortion on the last day of the session, Nancy Northup, executive director of the Center for Reproductive Rights said last month. But in this case, the court has two reproductive health care decisions to rule upon in the final days of the session. The two cases are June Medical Services LLC v. Russo and Trump v. Pennsylvania.
Planned Parenthood, through its various PACs, is spending $390,000 on the New Mexico primary, and the bulk of that on three races. Sarah Taylor-Nanista, executive director of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains Action Fund, said the nonprofit organization is “laser focused” on the progressives running against the seven Democratic incumbents who voted against HB 51 last year. HB 51 would have repealed a 1969 abortion law that abortion rights supporters worry will become law again if Roe v. Wade is overturned. But of the seven, there are three races in particular where Planned Parenthood is spending the bulk of its money. Those are Neomi Martinez-Parra’s race against state Sen. John Arthur Smith for Senate District 35; Siah Correa Hemphill’s fight to unseat state Sen. Gabriel “Gabe” Ramos for Senate District 28; and Pam Cordova’s challenge against state Sen. Clemente Sanchez for Senate District 30.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, more people are seeking abortion through telemedicine than ever before in New Mexico. Though the numbers are still small, the increase is significant, according to Neta Meltzer, director of strategic communications at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM). Meltzer wrote in an email that prior to the public health emergency, PPRM enrolled 10 patients from New Mexico into the study over the course of about a year. But in March of 2020 alone, the nonprofit screened 14 patients who were interested, and enrolled eight in that month. “The need for abortion care does not disappear in the midst of a global pandemic,” Meltzer wrote.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas signed onto an amicus brief earlier this month in support of a lawsuit launched by reproductive groups against the state of Texas. Abortion rights groups sued Texas last month to reverse Gov. Greg Abbott’s restriction on abortion access during the public health emergency. The ban, which was supposed to last until late April, allowed an abortion only if the pregnant person’s life was in danger. Some courts have sided with Texas and some have opined in favor of the abortion rights groups as it has ricocheted through the courts over the last few weeks. Earlier this week, a Texas appeals court allowed medication abortion to resume but not abortions that require a procedure.
To make reproductive health care more accessible during the COVID-19 pandemic, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains has created an app to help patients in New Mexico. Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains announced the app to help patients obtain medication contraceptives and urinary tract infection (UTI) treatment during the pandemic. Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains said this will help those already facing barriers to accessing care. Communities of color, people with low incomes and young people are disproportionately affected by the public health crisis, Adrienne Mansanares, PPRM chief experience officer, said in a statement. “Expanding telehealth is an important step to making reproductive care more accessible in New Mexico, and to continue to serve the communities who rely on us for high-quality, affordable, compassionate care.
The federal stimulus bill passed by Congress could lead to negative impacts on women’s health in New Mexico and other states. The unprecedented $2 trillion in federal relief, called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump late last month is expected to provide aid to many who have been impacted by the economic fallout caused by the lack of infrastructure to contend with the respiratory virus. But buried deep within the nearly 1,000 page bill is language designed to take a swipe at Planned Parenthood. Businesses and nonprofits seeking relief money will have to go through the Trump Administration’s Small Business Association—and the agency has the ability to refuse the nonprofit organization, according to Vice. Anti-abortion lawmakers claimed it as a “win” against abortion rights.
So far, COVID-19, a type of coronavirus, has not impacted abortion care in New Mexico, but at least one advocate said the virus’ spread likely will affect the future of it. Whitney Phillips, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains vice president of communications and brand experience, told NM Political Report by email Friday that the organization expects to see problems to occur as the global pandemic continues. “As states surrounding our region have been systematically shutting down access to reproductive health care, we’ve seen women traveling to New Mexico for care for some time now. While we haven’t begun to see the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic in our health centers, we believe it will happen,” Phillips wrote. Rachel Lorenzo, a co-founder of Indigenous Women Rising, which provides an abortion fund for Native people in the U.S. and Canada, said that as far as traveling goes for abortion care, there is “no fear,” for Indigenous people, despite the shutting down of schools, public events and public officials advice not to travel.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday for a Louisiana abortion law that could affect the entire country, including New Mexico. The nine justices on the court were asked to consider whether a Louisiana law that prohibits doctors who do not have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital to provide abortions conflicts with an identical Texas law the high Court struck down in 2016. The difference between the Texas case and the Louisiana one is who is sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court bench. Conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy sided with the liberal wing of the court in 2016 and the court struck down the Texas law. But since the U.S. Congress appointed Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the bench in 2018 after a controversial hearing, anti-abortion groups and abortion rights groups both anticipate that the 2016 ruling could be overturned.