Spreading lies to stoke fear and outrage for political gain has dangerous consequences. The storming of the U.S. Capitol by armed insurrectionists egged on by former President Donald Trump’s relentless and false claims of a stolen election has demonstrated that in no uncertain terms.
New Mexico is no outlier, nor a stranger to political manipulation and deceit. And these tactics have violent consequences for us, too.
Legislators first introduced a bill to repeal New Mexico’s outdated and unconstitutional abortion ban in 2017, and every year since, anti-abortion extremists have continued to spread misinformation about the bill, abortion care, medical providers and families having to make difficult decisions about their lives.
Over the last three legislative sessions, anti-abortion extremists have shown up at committee hearings armed, secretly recorded women testifying about difficult stories of pain and loss, followed and taken pictures of medical providers to post on social media encouraging threats against them, and even physically blocked families with small children from leaving the Roundhouse while screaming in their faces.
It’s of little surprise that among the rioters at the U.S. Capitol were anti-abortion extremists and that some of them even took part in the siege. Nor is it surprising that some of Trump’s most ardent supporters in our state, like Cowboys for Trump leader Couy Griffin, who was recently arrested by the FBI for his involvement in the riot, have shown up at anti-abortion rallies. The anti-abortion movement always has thrived on intimidation and violence.
This alliance of increasingly militarized extremists set on ending abortion care no doubt poses a direct threat to the safety of women, medical providers and their families. But it also poses a long-term threat to the health, well-being and autonomy of women and pregnant people.
If our 1969 abortion ban remains on the books when Roe v. Wade falls, anti-abortion law enforcement and prosecutors could weaponize this old ban to turn private medical decisions into felony criminal investigations and prosecutions. Every person who needs abortion care could be forced to beg for permission for an abortion from a panel of strangers. This is not the future New Mexicans want.
That is why we need a clean repeal of the ban this legislative session. And the Respect New Mexico Women and Families Act would do just that.
Abortion patients are not a monolith, and abortion care, like all health care, must respond to the individual needs of individual patients. In passing this legislation, we will ensure that pregnant people will be treated as individuals with unique circumstances and medical needs. That health care is driven by science and medicine rather than political rhetoric. And that health care remains accessible and safe for all New Mexicans.
Anti-abortion extremists represent an attempted regression of our societal values. But New Mexico is not interested in that past. We’re looking to a future where all people are considered equal in the eyes of law.
While anti-abortion extremists threaten, harass and bully their way into trying to revive an ugly past, the ACLU and its allies will be busy shoring up a future where every pregnant person in New Mexico has the legal right and ability to access the care that is right for them. Laws don’t evolve on their own. They evolve when those who have been harmed fight to ensure they will be rewritten.
This op-ed was originally published in the Santa Fe New Mexican.