Across the country, extremist lawmakers are passing unconstitutional abortion bans and restrictions that strip tens of millions of women of control over their own lives. As an avalanche of bans rips through the nation, New Mexico can’t afford to look the other way and pretend we aren’t on shaky ground.
The ability of women to live freely and autonomously is at stake.
The protections guaranteed by Roe v. Wade have already been gutted by more than 500 anti-abortion restrictions passed across the nation in the past five decades. New Mexico has its own abortion ban lingering in the books that will come back to haunt us when Roe is overturned. While the 1969 statue is not legally enforceable now, given the spate of attacks on reproductive freedom, New Mexico should act immediately to repeal it and ensure women and trusted health care providers are not at risk for even one more day.
The old abortion ban would require women — including survivors of rape and incest — at any stage of pregnancy to beg for permission to have an abortion in front of a panel of strangers. Additionally, any person who performs an abortion outside of this process could be charged with a felony. Women receiving this care could also be investigated and charged. We know that women of color, young people, women of limited income and LGBTQ-plus communities are at particular risk for investigation and prosecution when abortion is banned.
Anti-abortion extremists, who have launched a misinformation campaign and full-throttle assault on attempts to repeal the ban, have tried to convince New Mexicans that this scenario is the moral future we should strive for. It’s not.
How could forcing anyone to continue a pregnancy against their will ever be anything more than an act of violence?
Women are more than capable of making their own moral decisions within the framework of their own conscience, belief systems and life circumstances. Stripping them of their will and handing it over to lawmakers with a political agenda runs counter to the principles and spirit of liberty, equality, and self-determination.
The ability to make personal decisions about if, when and how to have a child is not only a legal right, it is a cornerstone of a woman’s health, well-being and autonomy. And yet every day, women who decide to end a pregnancy must contend with anti-abortion extremists who prowl street corners to shame and harass them without any knowledge of what’s going on in their lives or why they need abortion care. Unconstitutional bans like those being passed across the country not only vilify women and health care providers by encouraging harassment, but they also turn women’s bodies into sites of investigation, to be scrutinized and criminalized.
Women deserve better than this.
To those lawmakers who refused to repeal New Mexico’s abortion ban because they claim access is safe under Roe, I ask them to take a look at the attacks being waged against reproductive freedom in our state and around the country and reconsider their stance.
To those lawmakers who openly opposed repealing the ban, claiming that doing so runs counter to their ethics, I implore them to ask themselves if stripping women of dignity, respect, and moral authority over their own lives is in line with their ethics.
In the end, we do agree on one thing. Having an abortion is a moral decision. But it’s a moral decision that only each individual, with profound consideration of and concern for their own life circumstances, can make.
Anything else is an act of violence.
This op-ed was originally published in the Las Cruces Sun-News.