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New Mexico reacts to Supreme Court decision flanked by states poised to outlaw abortion


New Mexico reacts to Supreme Court decision flanked by states poised to outlaw abortion

Jun 24, 2022 | 1:58 pm ET
By Megan Gleason
Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, shredding federal abortion rights protections
An abortion rights supporter holds up a sign along with the trans and nonbinary pride flags in front of the federal courthouse in Downtown Albuquerque on the evening of Tuesday, May 3, 2022, after the draft opinion of the Supreme Court's decision was leaked. (Photo by Shelby Kleinhans for Source NM)

The Supreme Court on Friday morning released its decision reversing a landmark abortion rights ruling and ending nearly 50 years of legality throughout the United States.

Editor’s Note:

This is a breaking story and will be updated throughout the day.

With the ruling, advocates are shoved further into the fight for reproductive rights, which often seemed tenuous through the decades as state officials rolled out abortion restrictions and presented legal challenges to Roe v. Wade.

This decision by today’s conservative-leaning Supreme Court eliminates federal constitutional protection of abortion rights, leaving it up to individual states.

“It’s disgraceful and definitely a step back as a country,” said Nadia Cabrera-Mazzeo, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico.

New Mexico remains a state where abortion is legal with a commitment from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and other leaders to preserve that status. The Respect New Mexican Women and Families Act was signed into law last year, which removed outdated abortion bans and criminalization from the books.

“It’s about body sovereignty,” state Rep. Liz Thomson said. “No one should be able to tell me what I must or can’t do with my body.”

New Mexico is flanked by neighbors that have been increasing restrictions and that have anti-abortion trigger laws ready to take effect as soon as the Supreme Court issued its ruling. At least 22 states across the nation have laws that ban or severely restrict abortions with Roe v. Wade overturned.

Kayla Herring, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, pointed to the measure in Texas, Senate Bill 8, which essentially banned abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy starting in September. She said when the law took effect, New Mexico saw an uptick in patients traveling across state borders, specifically from Texas, to access abortion care.

She expects New Mexico will continue to be a place people travel to for abortion care with Roe v. Wade overturned. “We’ve done a lot of work in ensuring that New Mexico is a place where people can access reproductive health care, and specifically abortion access,” she said.

Bold Futures, a nonprofit that fights for reproductive rights, will continue to support those seeking abortions, executive director Charlene Bencomo said. “Pregnant people and those that support them deserve accurate information and quality care,” she said via email, “no matter their pregnancy decisions.”

Bencomo said her organization trusts those who are pregnant to make important health care decisions for themselves. “New Mexico is a place where people can continue to access abortion, even as abortion care in other parts of the country is shut down because of this SCOTUS ruling,” Bencomo said via email.

Bernalillo County is the only location in New Mexico that offers surgical abortion care, Bencomo said. Bold Futures is working on getting surgical care in other places in the state, like Doña Ana County, she said, but New Mexico is a rural state that has struggled with access for many years.

The increased number of patients will stress New Mexico’s health care system, which already is suffering from a provider shortage amid the pandemic, Herring added. Access to other services may become more difficult, too, she said, like STI testing, birth control and pregnancy exams.

Southwest Women’s Law Center staff attorney Jessica Serrano supports abortion access and spoke about those who can’t travel for legal abortions. Anyone who doesn’t have the financial ability to travel out of state, or underage persons whose families don’t support them — “all of those people will suffer immediately because some states are going to make obtaining an abortion almost illegal … It’s going to create absolute inequality,” Serrano said.

New Mexico reacts to Supreme Court decision flanked by states poised to outlaw abortion
Demonstrators hold up signs supporting abortion rights, trying to draw the attention of passing drivers at the corner of Lomas and Fourth Street at an event organized by Planned Parenthood on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. (Photo by Shelby Kleinhans for Source NM)

Rep. Thomson said people who can’t travel to get legal abortions are forced to take care of pregnancies in unsafe ways, “and it’s just wrong.”

“Unfortunately, there will be people who die because they … cannot get to New Mexico or get to wherever there are abortion providers,” Thomson said. 

Bencomo pointed out some communities that are more at risk than others, including Black, Indiginous, Latine, LGBTQ+ people and people of color. Herring reiterated this sentiment, adding that documentation status, financial means and location can limit access to health care.

Fatalities stemming from pregnancy complications also affect people of color more often because of racism and bias in the health care system, with Black and Indigenous people up to three times more likely to die than white people, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The maternal morbidity crisis unfolded long before this ruling, local health care provider Farinaz Khan brought up at a news conference Friday.

Marginalized communities faced barriers in accessing abortions even before the Supreme Court’s decision today, Herring said. Roe v. Wade didn’t create equitable, legal access to abortions for all communities, she said, and was just the starting point in what’s needed for equal abortion access for all.

Roe v. Wade really is the floor here, and we’re going to continue working to increase access to care,” Herring said.

While New Mexico doesn’t restrict abortion, it also isn’t legally protected. But trying to add more statutes or rules for abortion health care could actually further restrict rights, Cabrera-Mazzeo said. 

“Whenever we propose an affirmative statute about the issue, we open it up to more restrictions,” she said.

Still, Cabrera-Mazzeo said she wants to make it clear that abortion is still legal in New Mexico, regardless of the federal decision.

Abortion will be a significant issue for in the runup to the general elections in November, N.M., said state House Speaker Brian Egolf.

U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-N.M.), who’s fighting for her newly redrawn congressional district this election cycle, tweeted her support for the Supreme Court’s decision today: “Our nation has lost over 63 million of her most vulnerable citizens to this tragic practice.”

The state’s Republican Party offered a similar message, posting that “Today, the unborn are the winners.”

Alexis Martinez Johnson, the GOP candidate running for northern New Mexico’s congressional district, also took to social media to applaud the Supreme Court’s decision, pointing to her children: “As a mother of twins born at 7 months, my four children are the biggest blessings we have ever had.”

Abortion has been central to political campaigns locally and nationally this year, with candidates talking through with specificity where they believe restrictions should fall. 

Some conservatives express that abortion should be illegal, and there should be no exceptions in cases of sexual assault.

Thomson said not to allow abortion with instances of rape, incest, or the mother or fetus dying is “just cruel.” She said this nation is not a theocracy — a government led by religion.

“If you have a religious opinion on abortion, that’s fine. You do you. But you can’t put your religion on other people,” Thomson said.

New Mexico reacts to Supreme Court decision flanked by states poised to outlaw abortion
Attendees at the abortion rights rally carry signs from the Party for Socialism and Liberation and Planned Parenthood as they march down Lomas in Downtown Albuquerque on the evening of May 3, 2022. (Photo by Shelby Kleinhans for Source NM)

Southern New Mexico resident Craig Abalos said he is enraged and in disbelief about the decision. This relegates “women to second-class citizenship,” he wrote. “Leaving it up to the states is like leaving human rights to be decided on a state-by-state basis. It’s absurd.”

Looking forward, Thomson said she wants everyone in the state to have access to the health care they need, including abortions.

But on a federal level, Serrano said she isn’t hopeful that abortion rights will be protected again anytime soon.

Herring called for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal funding for abortion services, including Medicaid and through Indian Health Services. She also said New Mexico leaders need to invest in existing current abortion infrastructure “so that we are able to continue that tradition of respect and compassion that we provide through our abortion care in our state.” 

Cabrera-Mazzeo urged lawmakers to reject anti-abortion extremism at a legislative level. “It will be important for them to stay on top of that and to maintain what we currently have,” she said, “which is not something to scoff at.”

People seeking an abortion can locate their nearest Planned Parenthood health center or another trusted health care provider for help. Providers can be found here.

Planned Parenthood cautions against fake health centers — called “crisis pregnancy centers” — that advertise pregnancy counseling and promote misinformation. 

Local organizations that offer funding and support for people seeking abortion:

Bold Futures has a resource guide that explains how reproductive health care works in New Mexico.

“This abortion guide was created by and for Black, Indigenous, and Latine women and people of color. Special attention is given to specific groups of people, including those who are incarcerated, those who usually get health care through Indian Health Service, and queer, trans and gender non-conforming people,” Bencomo said via email.

Other resources can be found at their website Accessing Abortion in New Mexico.