With Democrats maintaining a large lead in the state House of Representatives and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham reelected for another four years, the Legislature is in a position to pass reproductive rights legislation, according to a Democratic legislator. State Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Santa Fe, called the next two years “crucial” to passing reproductive rights legislation. She said her focus is on expanding access to reproductive healthcare. “This election spoke volumes. We have a majority female House and a governor who supports bodily autonomy.
Lt. Governor Howie Morales held a press conference in Albuquerque on Monday to highlight Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s record on abortion rights just weeks before early voting and absentee voting begin. Morales spoke, briefly, in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill neighborhood. He was joined by Marlene Simon, a Santa Fe woman who was raped and had an illegal abortion in 1969, by Dr. Heather Brislen, a New Mexico physician, and by Lila Nezar, a student studying public health at UNM.
Morales contrasted Lujan Grisham’s record on abortion rights against her GOP opponent, Mark Ronchetti. He highlighted the Legislature’s repeal of the state’s 1969 antiquated abortion ban in 2021. Lujan Grisham signed the Respect New Mexico Women and Families Act, which removed the 1969 ban from the state’s criminal code, before the Legislature ended that spring.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed a motion on Thursday to dismiss a lawsuit challenging New Mexico’s legal abortion status. Filed in the Fifth Judicial District Court in Chaves County in late June by state Sen. David Gallegos, R-Eunice, Roswell-based write-in Independent candidate for New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands Larry Marker and Albuquerque-based former Republican primary candidate for Governor Ethel Maharg, the original suit challenged the fact that New Mexico legislature’s repeal of the state’s 1969 anti-abortion law allows legal abortion across the state. “Simply stated, no law, act or statute exists that allows for or legalizes abortion procedures in the state of New Mexico,” the lawsuit stated. Abortion remains legal in the state of New Mexico because the 2021 Legislature repealed the 1969 law that banned abortion, criminalizing it with few exceptions. Lujan Grisham signed the Respect New Mexico Women and Families Act in February 2021, before the legislature ended its session.
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.
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.
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.
Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountain clinics, which includes those in New Mexico, experienced a 130 percent increase in patients coming from Texas since August. The organization held a press conference on Monday alongside elected officials from New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada to discuss how the six-week gestational abortion ban in Texas has impacted the health care provider across the three states. In New Mexico alone, Planned Parenthood clinics have served 50 Texas patients since the ban began on September 1, Neta Meltzer, director of strategic communications for PPRM, said. Vicki Cowart, president and chief executive officer for PPRM, said the average wait time for an appointment at a Planned Parenthood clinic in New Mexico is now 21 days. She said Texas patients have had to travel, on average, 650 miles one-way to access abortion.
The New Mexico Democratic Congressional delegation signed onto an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Roe v. Wade in the Mississippi abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. That case will be heard December 1. But the court has traditionally made its ruling on abortion cases at the end of the term in late June or early July. The state of Mississippi, in its case against the sole clinic that provides abortions in that state, has asked the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe v. Wade. Mississippi lawmakers passed an unconstitutional law in 2018 making abortion at 15 weeks gestation illegal in that state.
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.