If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns or removes Roe against Wade next year when it hears the case involving a Mississippi law that would ban abortion after 15 weeks, New Mexico could face a fight and increase the harassment in clinics, according to experts on reproductive rights.
The U.S. Supreme Court announced earlier this week that it will hear Dobbs v. The Jackson Women’s Health Organization, on the Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks with few exceptions. The state of Mississippi asked the court to decide whether all prohibitions on the viability of abortion violate the Constitution. The court decision is expected to be reduced in 2022 before the midterm general election.
New Mexico, which was one of the few states to pass abortion rights legislation this year, will feel the effects of the Supreme Court decision regardless of how the court decides the Mississippi case, according to reproductive health advocates.
Related: New Mexico, one of the few states to have passed reproductive rights legislation this year
Joan Lamunyon Sanford, executive director of the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, said volunteers from the nonprofit organization escorting aborted patients to clinics have already witnessed an increase in protesters in the Albuquerque abortion clinics this past year during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have also seen their anger at the election results increase and they are more encouraged to push the legal limits,” he said.
Ellie Rushforth, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, told NM Political Report that whenever it revolves around abortion laws, including elections, legislative sessions, and major court hearings, there are more anti-abortion protesters outside the clinics. .
“I am not surprised if we see violent behavior in the coming months and years. I hope I’m wrong, “he said. “No one should face violence and hatred to access medical care and no one should be afraid of their safety when they go to work, but that is the reality for abortion care in this country “.
With confirmation last year from Judge Amy Coney Barrett, the U.S. Supreme Court has a six-conservative bloc on the bench. Coney Barrett’s opposition to reproductive health care, including contraception and abortion, is well documented. The Washington Post reported last year that Coney Barrett accepted the fees of the speaker of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a group that questions the separation of church and state.
Rushforth said that if the court revokes or removes Roe from Wade, New Mexico can expect a future fight for legislation and elections.
“I absolutely hope anti-abortion extremists and politicians will cheat their attempts to restrict and ban abortion in states like New Mexico,” Rushforth said.
Currently, the state has established protections. In addition to the Respect New Mexico Women and Families Act, which Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law this year, the state also has an amendment on equal rights that Rushforth said would protect access to abortion in the state.
The New Mexico courts ruled in 1998 that “any restrictions [on abortion access] it should be considered unconstitutional under the amendment of equal rights, ”Rushforth said.
The Respect New Mexico Women and Families Act repeals the state law of 1969 that prohibited abortion. But reproductive rights advocates began to prepare for the effort to repeal the state statute that criminalized abortion years ago. The attempt to pass a similar bill failed in 2019. Lujan Grisham prioritized the effort in this legislative session.
Related: The 2021 legislature was called “historic” and “extraordinary” by advocates of reproductive justice
Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains officials said in early 2020 that they expected 25 million women of childbearing age to live in states without a single abortion provider in a few years.
Related: With a health crisis underway, New Mexico could be key to accessing abortion
With the court’s decision to hear Dobbs against the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, reproductive rights advocates are concerned that this prediction may come true. Rushforth said that if the court’s decision next year leads to the closure of abortion clinics in other states, this will lead anti-abortion groups to turn their sites into states like New Mexico, where access is still legal.
“As other clinics close, as they will if Roe is knocked down, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an influx of anti-abortion protesters in New Mexico,” Rushforth said.
Lamunyon Sanford said the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice experienced a greater need for help accessing abortion in New Mexico last year because of the pandemic.
“Just in the last year of COVID we have seen a growing need for our support. People have lost their jobs. This is not a good time for some people; It’s not a good time to start a family, so we’re busy and yes, we have a lot more people calling, ”said Lamunyon Sanford.
He said the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice is already planning a growing need for aborted Texas patients traveling to New Mexico to receive care because Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a ban Wednesday. six-week gestational.
When Texas banned abortion during the first months of the pandemic last year and the law went back to court for several weeks, Lamunyon Sanford said the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice received a growing need of aborted patients in Texas. But, he said it didn’t stop when Texas lifted the ban.
“I think that, unfortunately, many people never got the abortion they needed because of the confusion about it, as it paved the way for the courts and the decisions changed overnight. There was a lot of confusion and not everyone has the resources to travel, especially during a pandemic, ”he said.
Lamunyon Sanford said Roe v. Wade “should be the floor” for abortion care. Despite the comparative freedom to access abortion in New Mexico when standing in front of other states that have removed gestational bans and several other laws, the Hyde federal amendment is one of the obstacles that also affects New Mexico, he said. to say.
The Hyde Amendment, which has been attached to the federal budget every year since the late 1970s, prohibits federal support for abortion care. In practical terms, this means that Indians who depend on the health services of India, military personnel and their dependents and federal employees who depend on their employer’s health insurance, have to pay out of pocket or find other resources to pay for abortion care, Lamunyon said Sanford.
But he said “abortion should not be set aside or cut.”
“You should not go to a specialist clinic. We are very lucky about that [New Mexico] Medicaid covers abortion care and even covers transportation to rural areas to get to Albuquerque, but you shouldn’t. You should be able to go to your local provider and get the abortion medication early in your pregnancy. “
He said the only reason there is a need for abortion clinics is that the stigma surrounding abortion prevents local providers from providing the service.
But Rushforth said we already live in a “post roe world.”
“When we talk about a post-roe world, we already live in a post-roe world. We are working to make sure everyone can access the abortion care they need, but anti-abortion extremists work just as hard to push that necessary and safe care out of their reach, ”he said.