How the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion rights this term could affect LGBTQ+ rights

This fall, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments on anti-abortion bans that some say could have the potential to impact LGBTQ+ constitutional rights. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments earlier this month for two cases filed over Texas SB 8, which prohibits abortion at six weeks. On December 1, the Supreme Court will hear another case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, over the right of Mississippi to ban abortion at 15 weeks. Many rights that involve bodily autonomy, such as the right to contraception, the right to abortion and the right for same sex couples to marry, rest on the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the 5th and 14th amendments. “In the due process clauses of the 5th and 14th amendments there’s this protection of process when the government deprives us of life, liberty and property.

Language, tactics used by anti-abortion movement called misinformation

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.

Head of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains retires after 18 years at helm

Vicki Cowart, president and chief executive officer for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, was once thrown out of a business club in Caspar, Wyoming, for being a woman. It was a different time then, one in which job interviewers didn’t hesitate to ask women if they planned to have children and, if so, would they keep working, she said. Now such questions would be considered discriminatory and, potentially, actionable but Cowart, who has been leading PPRM since 2003, said facing repeated discrimination as a young professional, reading feminist literature and participating as an activist in her off time is why the last half of her career has been devoted to ensuring pregnant people have access to abortion in New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada. Cowart announced earlier this fall her plans to retire. She said she intends to continue until the board has found a replacement.

U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments Monday on Texas anti-abortion law

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday morning for two cases related to the Texas law that bans abortion at six-weeks of gestation. The arguments presented procedural questions about whether or not a group of providers and advocates called Whole Women’s Health Coalition and the U.S. Department of Justice can bring separate lawsuits because the only state actors involved in SB 8 are state court judges and clerks. Texas lawmakers wrote the law in such a way as to abrogate responsibility for the law, leaving Whole Women’s Health Coalition in the position of needing to sue each state trial court judge and an injunction against every county clerk in the state of Texas. The DOJ is suing the state of Texas. If the court rules in either case in favor of either Whole Women’s Health Coalition or the DOJ, the case would go back to the lower court and allow the plaintiff’s legal challenge to the law proceed.

Oklahoma anti-abortion laws could add to strain on NM clinics

The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Friday it would hear oral arguments regarding a restrictive Texas anti-abortion law on Nov. 1. But, on the same date, Oklahoma is expected to enact three highly restriction abortion laws. The laws are medically unnecessary, Adrienne Mansanares, chief experience officer of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, told NM Political Report. Reproductive rights groups have sued Oklahoma and, while a judge struck down two of the original five anti-abortion laws earlier in October, the courts are still considering the other three under appeal.

U.S. Supreme Court ruling on qualified immunity won’t affect New Mexico

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of qualified immunity in two separate, but similar, federal cases that involved police officers who, the plaintiffs alleged, used excessive force in the two separate incidents. 

But, those rulings will not impact the New Mexico Civil Rights Act, which prohibits the use of qualified immunity as a legal defense in state civil cases, said Leon Howard, legal director with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico. Howard said that states are allowed to provide more protection for the individuals who live in the state than the federal constitution does but not less. 

“When the Supreme Court rules on a constitutional issue, they’re interpreting the federal constitution and the body of law that makes up interpretation of the federal constitution,” Howard said. The Supreme Court does not get involved in a case unless there is a federal question, Howard said. 

A plaintiff in New Mexico can still sue a government entity for constitutional violation in federal court, Howard said. But in federal court, the government entity can still rely on the qualified immunity defense. Qualified immunity is a judicial rule established decades ago that has become an obstacle almost impossible to surpass in court. 

Related: What ‘qualified immunity’ means for New Mexico

The government entity in a case would have to argue that the New Mexico Civil Rights Act, passed in the 2021 Legislature and signed shortly thereafter by the governor, was violating its federal constitutional rights, Howard said.

While Texas abortion ban yo-yos in courts, one provider talks about the effects

As Texas abortion rights yo-yo in the courts, one Planned Parenthood doctor said the volume in patients coming from Texas has not changed. Last week a federal Texas judge placed a temporary injunction on SB 8, the Texas law that bans abortion at six weeks, at the U.S. Department of Justice’s request. The DOJ is suing Texas over the law. But within 48 hours after the injunction, the 5th US Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s injunction, making abortion illegal in the state of Texas, again, after six weeks gestation. According to national media, the DOJ has appealed and is asking the courts to reconsider placing an injunction on the ban.

How the Texas abortion ban is affecting New Mexico abortion providers and funds, almost four weeks in

An abortion provider in New Mexico said the increase in patients from Texas will no longer be manageable if it continues in the coming weeks. Adrienne Mansanares, chief experience officer for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, told NM Political Report that the group’s clinics are “not in crisis right now.”

But she said they are “in an unhealthy place” and it “won’t be manageable in the coming weeks if we continue to see the percentage increase from Texas.”

Mansanares said of the roughly 3,000 abortions that take place in New Mexico annually, Planned Parenthood provides about 700 of them. “What we saw in the first week [of September] is what we typically see in a month,” she said. She said there are about 55,000 abortions in Texas each year. Abortion clinics in New Mexico cannot continue to absorb the need from Texas abortion patients indefinitely, she said.

Bill to protect women’s right to abortion passes U.S. House of Representatives

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Women’s Health Protection Act on Friday by 218 to 211 largely along party lines. One Texas Democrat voted against it while all Republicans voted against the bill. U.S. Representatives Melanie Stansbury of New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, and Teresa Leger Fernández New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District, both Democrats, voted for the bill. The bill would protect women’s right to an abortion in every state and end gestational bans and other restrictions to reproductive access. The bill is unlikely to pass the U.S. Senate.

NM-based abortion fund twice as busy as pre-pandemic

This month, New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, an Albuquerque-based abortion fund, has helped 28 patients get an abortion, up from 15 in September 2020 when fears of COVID-19 prevented travel and 21 in September 2019. And the month of September is not yet over, Brittany Defeo, New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice program manager, pointed out. The increase in demand is due to the Texas six-week gestational abortion ban that went into effect at the beginning of the month. Defeo said the coalition is the last abortion fund most patients apply to because what the coalition offers – help with accommodations and trips to the airport, bus or train station – are services needed by the most economically perilous who need an abortion later in pregnancy which requires an overnight stay. But because of the Texas law, the coalition is now seeing patients request their services even before 10 weeks of gestation because the patient needs to travel to New Mexico to take abortion medication.