With six openly queer legislators participating in the 2021 New Mexico legislative session, many in the LGBTQ community said this past session was important in the advancement of equal rights. But also, legislation that would repeal the state’s ban on abortion, remove qualified immunity as a legal defense and enable individuals whose civil rights have been violated to seek financial remedy through the courts and require employers to provide paid sick leave to employees are major highlights for the LGBTQ community as well as the reproductive justice community because the two intersect. The New Mexico Civil Rights Act, which made the changes on qualified immunity, and the Healthy Workplaces Act, which imposes the paid sick leave requirement, passed both chambers but await Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s signature. Lujan Grisham has already signed the Respect New Mexico Women and Families Act, on abortion, into law after it passed both chambers in February. Related: Governor signs bill repealing abortion ban into law: ‘a woman has the right to make decisions about her own body’
But there were other moments, such as an informal “gay pride night” in the state Senate, when two bills sponsored by openly queer Senators passed in mid-March, that were noted by members of the LGBTQ community.
With the passage of legislation to repeal the state’s outdated abortion ban and the New Mexico Civil Rights Act, many in the reproductive justice community called the 2021 Legislative session “extraordinary.”
All reproductive rights groups NM Political Report spoke with cited the passage of the Respect New Mexico Women and Families Act, or SB 10, as one of the biggest victories and a major piece of legislation to come out of the 2021 session. Legislators fast tracked the bill through committee hearings and it passed both chambers before the session’s end. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the bill into law in February. Related: Governor signs bill repealing abortion ban into law: ‘a woman has the right to make decisions about her own body’
The bill repeals the 1969 statute that criminalized abortion and made it a fourth-degree felony for a medical practitioner to perform one. Ellie Rushforth, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, called the 2021 Legislative session “historic.”
Rushforth said it was in contrast to other states, where in the first few months of 2021, state legislatures have introduced close to 400 pieces of anti-abortion legislation.
New Mexico abortion fund providers are already seeing impacts as the public health emergency and financial crisis worsens during the COVID-19 global pandemic, according to advocates. A group of abortion fund providers in New Mexico issued a statement Friday to remind elected leaders and others that reproductive healthcare, including abortion, is not elective medicine. In line with the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recent statement that any reproductive procedure which, if delayed, will “negatively affect patient health and safety should not be delayed,” Indigenous Women Rising, Mariposa Fund and New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice issued their own statement to tell elected leaders to continue to respect reproductive healthcare for women. All three groups offer funding and other aid for people seeking an abortion. National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum also signed the letter.
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.
A grassroots organization raises money for an abortion fund entirely for Indigenous people while also raising awareness. An Albuquerque film screening that served as a fundraiser for Indigenous Women Rising raised $300 late last month. The money goes to support an abortion fund for Native people in the U.S. and Canada. Since the beginning of this year alone, the IWR abortion fund has helped 18 people get an abortion. The fund can help with the cost of the abortion itself.