Study: New Mexico had highest increase in abortion since 2020

Between January 2020 and June 2023, New Mexico saw a larger increase in abortion than any other state, according to a new report. The Guttmacher Institute, a policy organization based in Washington D.C. that researches reproductive health, released a new interactive data map which shows increases in abortion state by state. New Mexico saw 6,480 more abortions between January 2020 to June 2023. That amounts to a 220 percent increase. Colorado, where abortion also remains legal, saw an 89 percent increase in abortion during the same period.

U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rules to return mifepristone to earlier regulations

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday in a split decision in favor of returning the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the abortion medication mifepristone to its 2016 regulations. The decision agrees with U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s decision in part and disagrees with it in part. But, the Fifth Circuit’s decision would keep the FDA’s original approval of the drug, made in 2000, in place. It would also keep the generic version of mifepristone on the market. But, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision agreed with Kacsmaryk’s earlier decision in part, which, if allowed to stand, would require the FDA to return to its 2016 regulations around the drug.

NM joins in amicus on lawsuit over Idaho law banning abortion information

New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez joined a coalition of 20 attorneys general who filed an amicus brief on Tuesday in support of a lawsuit against the state of Idaho due to a state law aimed at curbing efforts to help Idaho minors who seek an out-of-state abortion. The Idaho law could have repercussions for individuals in other states, such as New Mexico, where abortion is legal and safe. New Mexico has no barriers for minors who are 14 years old or older to receive abortion care. The amicus brief cites the danger that some minors face if they must seek parental consent for an abortion. Advocates of abortion care call parental consent TRAP laws [Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers] which are intended to place barriers in the way of care. 

But Idaho has enacted a law that would criminalize individuals in other states where abortion is legal if those individuals help an Idaho minor seek an abortion.

Reproductive rights groups call ‘victory’ over FDA approval of over-the-counter birth control pill

Many reproductive health care advocates in New Mexico declared a victory when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that a birth control pill will soon be available over the counter. The news comes after months of uncertainty as the federal courts consider the future of the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, the first in a two-step regimen for abortion care. That decision is on pause for now and the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to consider the issue during its upcoming 2023-2024 session. The over-the-counter birth control pill will be sold under the brand name Opill and is expected to become available by January 2024. Heather Smith, Bold Futures policy manager, said the news is a victory for public health, equity and evidence-based research.

NM officials respond to U.S. Supreme Court redistricting decision

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected on Tuesday an attempt to exempt state legislatures from federal judicial review for redistricting issues. The Supreme Court rejected the “independent state legislature theory” in the Moore V. Harper (2003) case on a 6-3 vote. The theory states that state legislatures have “exclusive and independent authority” to draw federal congressional maps” based on the U.S. Constitution’s Elections Clause, the opinion states. “As an election official deeply committed to upholding the principles of democracy, I am thrilled by today’s Supreme Court decision in Moore vs. Harper,” Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said.

Supreme Court rules 5-4 against Navajo Nation in water rights case

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Navajo Nation in a Colorado River water dispute on Thursday. The case centered around the 1868 treaty that established the Navajo reservation. The Nation argued that the federal government breached its contract and failed to ensure there was adequate water for the Navajo people. The case particularly centered around Colorado River rights in Arizona. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against the Tribe with Justice Brett Kavanaugh writing the majority opinion and Justice Neil Gorsuch filing the dissenting opinion. 

Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren said in a statement that, while the ruling is disappointing, it is encouraging that the ruling was 5-4.

How the Dobbs decision helped lead New Mexico to become a safety state for LGBTQ individuals

The U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision unleashed “some real darkness” for the LGBTQ community nationally, but New Mexico responded with a landmark legislative year for LGBTQ rights. The Human Rights Campaign declared a national state of emergency earlier this month for LGBTQ Americans because more than 75 anti-LGBTQ bills have been signed into law in 2023 in states across the country. The Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ organization, calls the number of anti-LGBTQ bills “unprecedented.”

Marshall Martinez, executive director for Equality New Mexico, said this is “arguably the most politically dangerous time in American history for queer and trans folks.”

“We can’t deny that when this Supreme Court was seated, when they issued the Dobbs decision, they signaled very clearly to the state and local governments across the country, you can do what you want to attack bodily autonomy and we’re not going to stop you,” Martinez told NM Political Report. In the Dobbs decision, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring opinion that the court needed to revisit other cases that rest on the 14th amendment, including Obergefell v. Hodges, which codified same-sex marriage, and Lawrence v. Texas, which codified same-sex relationships. Adrien Lawyer, director of education and co-founder of Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico, said he doesn’t see how reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights are separate politically.

More doctors seek abortion training in New Mexico because of Dobbs

Medical residents from other states are receiving instruction at the University of New Mexico Center for Reproductive Health in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. One way that the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade last year, has impacted abortion care across the U.S. is in medical training. Obstetrics and gynecology students studying in states where abortion is banned can no longer receive integrated abortion care training into their years of study.  Dr. Jody Steinauer, director of the University of California-San Francisco Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, said during a press conference this month that OB-GYN medical students now have to travel to states, such as New Mexico where abortion is legal, to study abortion care. “Normally, an OB-GYN provider would receive integrated abortion care training over the years of the student’s studies. Now, medical students in states where abortion is banned are only receiving about four weeks of training,” Steinauer said.

A look back at what the last year has wrought

A week ago this coming Saturday, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade and upending nearly 50 years of precedent. But the story really starts before June 24, 2022. Abortion is legal in New Mexico and remains so in part because advocates began working years ago to ensure that it would continue to be legal in the event the political makeup of the court changed. Joan Lamunyon Sanford, executive director of  abortion fund provider New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, said that in October of 2020, when the U.S. Senate confirmed Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, she knew “we would lose Roe.”

“We were anticipating it as far back as that. We started comparing it to a natural disaster, though this is a created disaster,” she said.

Surface water permitting may help fill gaps left after SCOTUS ruling

The New Mexico Environment Department is looking at creating a surface water permitting program in light of the Sackett vs. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency U.S. Supreme Court ruling that stripped protections from many wetlands. 

John Rhoderick, the NMED Water Protection Division’s director, spoke to the interim legislative Water and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday about the idea. While the surface water permitting program is something that could help restore protection to waters in New Mexico, the Sackett ruling did not predicate the discussions. Roderick said that at this time the state agency does not see a need to alter the timeline for rulemaking. He said the rulemaking should go to the Water Quality Control Commission in 2025 and will take at least six years to fully implement, including setting the program up and hiring staff.