Anti-abortion advocates from across the country held a press conference in Albuquerque Wednesday morning denouncing New Mexico’s flagship university for its fetal tissue donation practices. Among those who spoke at the event were Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce, a Republican and Washington D.C. attorney Catherine Glenn Foster. Blackburn, who chaired the controversial congressional Select Panel on Infant Rights, said she came to “join my colleague in the House [of Representatives] and those in New Mexico that have worked on the issue of life.”
The Select Panel released a report in January faulting the University of New Mexico for lacking protocols to “ensure the survival of infants who show signs of life following extraction from the uterus.” It also scrutinized UNM’s relationship with Southwest Women’s Options, an abortion provider that has donated fetal tissue to the university for scientific research. Supporters of abortion rights, as well as minority Democrats in the Select Panel, have dismissed the report and the panel’s investigation for using “McCarthy-era tactics” to conduct “an end-to-end attack on fetal tissue donation and women’s health care.”
Pearce contended that “the laws are clear” and that “we’re simply stating, ‘Do not violate the law.’”
The Select Panel made 15 criminal referrals for its research of abortion providers and educational institutions across the country, including to New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas. To date, Balderas has not acted on the referral to his office.
Angelo Artuso warns that a move by lawmakers to shield some university research from the public eye could lead to harrowing consequences. At a Wednesday morning House committee hearing, Artuso invoked some of history’s darkest state-sanctioned university research projects. For decades, researchers at Tuskegee University studied the effects of syphilis by pretending to offer infected Black men free health care. And several colleges and universities from the early 1950s until 1973 were involved in Project MKUltra, a CIA program that used drugs like LSD unknowingly on human subjects to experiment with mind control. Programs like those, involving government-funded atrocities at institutions of higher learning, Artuso maintained, would remain hidden at New Mexico public higher education institutions under a bill sponsored by state Reps.
As the country’s highest court decides whether to uphold a controversial Texas law restricting abortion access, New Mexico advocates on both sides of the issue await the impact of the decision. The Texas law, known as HB2, requires all abortions be performed in hospital-like ambulatory surgical centers and all facilities that practice surgical abortions to have admitting privileges to a hospital located within 30 miles. Twenty-two of Texas’ 41 abortion clinics have closed since the state passed HB2 in 2013. Aside from El Paso, no abortion clinics currently operate in the entire western half of the country’s second-largest state. Because of this, many abortion rights advocates argue that HB2 has already impacted New Mexico and that a U.S. Supreme Court decision to keep the law could create a new precedent.
An anti-abortion group in Albuquerque filed an appeal to a campaign finance decision by the city that ended with a public reprimand and $1,000 fine earlier this month. Protest ABQ, a group that opposes abortion in Albuquerque, is challenging the City of Albuquerque’s decision in the Second Judicial District Court. At issue is a ruling by the city’s Board of Ethics that Protest ABQ violated a city statute by not properly registering as a measured finance committee, or MFC, before spending money in October city elections. During the recent municipal election, Protest ABQ group sent out mailers that purportedly depicted a woman who died from an abortion as well as an aborted fetus. The mailers said District 6 candidate, and now incoming councilor, Pat Davis* supported late term abortions and said that he is too extreme for Albuquerque.
At least one abortion rights group in New Mexico is calling for anti-abortion activists to take some responsibility for the shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood this weekend, while anti-abortion activists say they decry the violence. Joan Lamunyon Sanford, executive director of New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, told NM Political Report that Protest ABQ and other anti-abortion activists should take at least some responsibility for the attitude that she thinks led to the shooting. She said problems arise “when you use rhetoric that equates abortion with murder.”
Following news reports of the shooting in Colorado Springs, Protest ABQ released a statement condemning the attacks. “Our prayers go out to all those involved today in the senseless shooting at the Planned Parenthood located in Colorado Springs, Colorado,” the statement read. “We continue to pray for the law enforcement officers and all of those who were shot and for the safety of those currently responding to this ongoing situation.”
Tara Shaver, a cofounder of Protest ABQ, told NM Political Report her group will not change their activities based on what happened in Colorado.
The City of Albuquerque’s Board of Ethics ruled unanimously that an anti-abortion group broke city election rules when the group sent mailers in opposition of a City Council candidate. The board issued a $1,000 fine and a public reprimand. Protest ABQ sent fliers depicting graphic scenes purportedly from abortions in an attempt sway voters in District 6 from voting for Pat Davis, who won the race. Davis, the Executive Director of the political group ProgressNow New Mexico*, previously worked on a campaign against a ballot initiative in Albuquerque that would have banned late-term abortions. Alex Curtas, an employee of ProgressNow New Mexico, filed a complaint against Protest ABQ and it’s founders Bud and Tara Shaver arguing they should have registered as a Measure Finance Committee.
Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry is calling on an anti-abortion group to stop using blown-up graphic imagery in a Southeast Heights neighborhood. This week, Protest ABQ has been driving a truck with a large-scale picture of what’s purported to be an aborted fetus throughout the district where city council candidate Pat Davis* lives. Davis, who was part of a coalition group in 2013 that advocated against a ballot initiative that would have banned abortions in Albuquerque after 20 weeks of pregnancy, is running to replace Councilor Rey Garduño in the Democrat-leaning District 6. Berry, a Republican opposed to abortion rights, made the announcement in a Youtube video Friday. “As a pro-life mayor and a former state legislator, today I’m calling on Protest ABQ to stop taking large-scale images of abortions into neighborhoods where our children and our schoolkids are being exposed and traumatized,” Berry said in the video.
An anti-abortion group is getting attention for targeting an Albuquerque city council candidate with graphic imagery and one of their mailers is being investigated by the city’s ethics board. Protest ABQ, the group that sent the mailer, isn’t registered with the city as an Measure Finance Committee, which is required to be in order to send material opposing a political candidate. The mailer also didn’t list the address of Protest ABQ or the printer of the mailer, which city campaign rules require. Sent out last week, the mailer shows a picture of what’s purported to be a bloody fetus from a “late-term” abortion and a woman who the mailer says “died from LEGAL abortion.”
Yet the mailer’s attacks are saved for Pat Davis*, a District 6 city council candidate running to replace retiring Councilor Rey Garduño. “Davis champions this…” the mailer reads above the graphic photos.
One of several Republican proposals to restrict abortion access in New Mexico stalled Tuesday night as a Democrat-controlled panel tabled legislation centered on a requirement that abortion physicians obtain hospital admitting privileges. Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, told the Senate Public Affairs Committee that his SB 437 was intended to ensure that women undergoing abortion procedures have “the safest accommodations for doing so.”
The bill would prohibit abortion doctors from administering a procedure unless they’ve been granted special permissions to admit patients to a hospital within 30 miles of where the abortion is being performed. Brandt said the bill’s provisions would guarantee “that the doctor gets help that’s needed during emergencies.”
Brandt said his measure “gives the woman information she needs in her medical records if there’s a complication” following an abortion procedure. He added that SB 437 stemmed directly from the approval of a similar bill in Texas and dealt with concerns cited by proponents of another 2012 measure passed in Mississippi. Lalita Russ, a staffer at Planned Parenthood, testified that the non-profit organization provides a range of services, including birth control and screenings for sexually transmitted infections and certain cancers.
For Sara and Josue Maldonado, the question of whether abortion access should be curtailed in New Mexico boils down to starkly defined principles: Human life begins at conception and should be protected without exceptions. “When I had my baby in September, I’d hold her in my arms and think, ‘She’s a person,’” said Sara, who adds she used to call herself pro-choice. “In my opinion, it’s not just a woman’s body. It’s also the body of the living being who’s inside her.”
Josue chimed in, saying that he believes public funding for Planned Parenthood should be cut and that contraception is harmful to women’s health. (Medical research indicates that hormonal birth control health risks are complex; it may increase risk of breast cancer for some women while also lowering risk for other cancers and health conditions.)
The Maldonados were among an estimated 200 people assembled yesterday in the Roundhouse rotunda as Allen Sanchez, executive director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, presided over a lineup of speakers.