The fall of Roe v. Wade in June led three women to form a reproductive rights group in Otero County. Natalie Wilkins, Shari Adkisson and Marylouise Kuti forged New Voices Otero in response to the leak of the U.S. Supreme Court draft document of its Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Healthcare decision in May as an offshoot of their initial protest activity. Despite the potential for backlash, they told NM Political Report they believe being vocal is important on issues such as reproductive rights but, also, already looking ahead, on social justice issues as they move forward. New Voices Otero spoke out against the resolutions passed by both the Otero County Commission and Alamogordo City Council in July to designate both the county and the city as “sanctuaries for the unborn.” Anti-abortion activists have said such designations are one of the initial steps which could, over the course of years, alter the political climate of the state so New Mexico could become a state where abortion would no longer be legal. Related: How anti-abortion activists plan to turn New Mexico into an anti-abortion state
“In our viewpoint, there were more people there [at the Alamogordo City Council meeting] saying no over the people saying yes.
On Wednesday, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced she will designate$10 million in executive capital outlay funding next year to develop a new clinic in Doña Ana County. Lujan Grisham is directing the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration to designate the $10 million in the upcoming 2023 legislative session for the new clinic. The New Mexico Department of Health will also develop a plan to leverage state resources to expand access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion, to underserved areas of the state to increase access and decrease wait times at abortion clinics. Lujan Grisham’s announcement was a part of her second executive order on reproductive healthcare since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in late June. The first order established that New Mexico would not cooperate with other state’s efforts to prosecute patients who travel to New Mexico and would protect providers who work in the state.
The New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, an abortion fund provider, is expanding its services to Las Cruces. Since the fall of Roe v. Wade in June, more than one reproductive healthcare organization has said it will open a new clinic in Las Cruces to help with what many have called a health care crisis. So far, some bans on abortion have become law in 17 states, including most neighboring states. This has increased the number of patients traveling to New Mexico seeking care. While Joan Lamunyon Sanford, executive director of NMRCRC, told NM Political Report that since Texas banned abortion after six weeks in September of last year, the abortion fund started receiving between 75 to 80 callers a month.
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.
After the repeal of Roe v. Wade, anti-abortion activists are looking to turn public sentiment against abortion access in New Mexico, a state where abortion is legal, abortion rights policy experts have said. Nadia Cabrera-Mazzeo, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, said that organizations involved in reproductive rights in New Mexico expected this to happen before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. “It’s a certainty and we’ve been expecting it. We knew the second Roe was overturned, [anti-abortion activists] would set their sights on New Mexico where it’s still legal to get necessary care,” she said to NM Political Report. Last week, an anti-abortion group called Southwest Coalition for Life organized a rally in a parking lot next to the future Las Cruces Women’s Health Organization.
President Joe Biden’s executive order to protect reproductive rights and care announced earlier this month can only do so much without Congressional budgetary support. The order directs federal agencies, particularly the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [HHS] to safeguard access to abortion care and contraception, protect the privacy of patients, promote the safety and security of both patients and providers and to coordinate federal efforts to protect reproductive access and rights. But, Biden’s ability to affect change on the current state of abortion care now that the court has overturned Roe v. Wade is “handcuffed” by a lack of action from the U.S. Congress, Noreen Farrell, attorney and executive director with the nonprofit Equal Rights Advocates, told NM Political Report. “Obviously, there’s some congressional handcuffs on the scope and impact of executive action,” Farrell said. Farrell called the order “a plan to make a plan.”
A few days after Biden’s order, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra issued guidance that states that providers must continue to follow the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, a federal law that requires that all patients receive an examination, stabilizing treatment and transfer, if necessary, as needed, irrespective of state laws that apply to specific procedures.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday by a 228 to 195 vote that would codify the right to contraception into law, but its future in the U.S. Senate is uncertain. All Democrats in the House voted in support of the bill. Most Republicans opposed it, but eight voted in favor. HR 8373, would codify into law the right to contraception and the right of healthcare providers to provide it and information about it. When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last month, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring dissenting opinion stating that all rights based on the 14th Amendment’s right to privacy, including the right to contraception, should be revisited by the court.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Ronchetti reportedly told Legacy Church Senior Pastor Steve Smothermon that he wants to ban abortion if elected. Ronchetti has publicly stated that, if elected, he will seek to ban what he calls “partial-birth abortions” by making it illegal after 15 weeks. Ronchetti said in a recent Twitter message that “I believe permitting abortion up to 15 weeks and in cases of rape, incest and when a mother’s life is at risk.”
“Partial-birth abortion” is not a medical term, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. During a Republican primary debate hosted by KOAT-TV in May, Ronchetti did not explicitly answer the question of whether he would ban or restrict abortion if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. He said he was “firmly pro-life” and “we will protect life.”
He also said he wants to “work with anyone we can to say let’s get things into line with where the morality of the state of New Mexico is.” But he did not explain what he meant.
Whole Women’s Health, an abortion provider in Texas as well as other states, is trying to raise more than $700,000 to move to New Mexico. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade last month, some abortion providers in states hostile to reproductive care have begun making plans to relocate to New Mexico, where abortion remains safe and legal. Whole Women’s Health had to shut down its four remaining clinics due to a Texas trigger ban that the state is fighting to implement since the nation’s high court overturned the 1973 landmark decision. This week the organization announced it is making plans to open a new clinic in a border town in New Mexico. Andrea Ferrigno, corporate vice president for Whole Women’s Health, told NM Political Report that two Whole Women’s Health providers already licensed and working in the state have been providing virtual abortion care for patients both in and out of state for nearly a year.
Two data brokers committed to ending the sale of location data of people who visit abortion clinics. Sen. Ben Ray Luján, a Democrat, announced the commitment on Thursday. The announcement was in response to two letters from 13 senators, including Luján, to end the practice. One of the companies, SafeGraph, said in a statement that it has removed “all of the visit-related Patterns statistics aggregated to businesses categorized by the NAICS Code for family planning centers, 621410. In other words, it is now impossible to access any information about visits to family planning centers from our platform.”
The other company, Placer.ai, said in a statement that it, “commits, on a permanent basis, to disabling user access to data about any additional sensitive locations that raise similar concerns—including other reproductive health providers that may not have been identified in the Company’s prior reviews.”
The ability for data tracking on a pregnant person’s phone has become an issue of increasing concern as states hostile to abortion ban it or plan to in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last month, which overturned Roe v. Wade.