The 2023 legislative session stands as one of the ACLU’s most successful. In collaboration with community and legislative partners, the ACLU worked to pass bills strengthening voting rights and police accountability, ending life without parole for youthful offenders, and eliminating certain criminal fines and fees. All told, ten of our priority bills made it over the finish line, more than in any previous session.
Our multi-pronged approach to protecting civil liberties is so important – it will take every tool in our tool box of litigation, legislative advocacy, and public education to ensure New Mexico remains a place where every person can make their own medical decisions without government interference.
But surely no legislative achievement is more noteworthy than the passage of bills strengthening New Mexicans’ right to make independent decisions about their reproductive and gender-affirming health care. Now, the State of New Mexico affords unique protections to patients, helpers, and providers of gender-affirming care and abortion care against discrimination, harassment or prosecution from other states. It also explicitly forbids any “public body” from interfering with reproductive health or gender-affirming care.
These are substantive guarantees that further anchor the unique freedoms New Mexicans deserve in determining their own futures and planning their families as they choose.
They come at a critical time. In the wake of the Dobbs decision, counties and cities in southeastern New Mexico are conspiring with national anti-abortion activists to pass ordinances banning abortion care. The aim of these laws is not just to ban abortion care in parts of New Mexico but also to provoke legal challenges that could work their way up through the federal courts to give the U.S. Supreme Court further opportunity to ban abortion nationwide.
The overturning of Roe v. Wade thrust New Mexico to the fore of the national fight to preserve abortion access. Not only are we one of the few southwestern states where abortion remains safe and legal, but we are also home to one of the few clinics in the nation that continues to provide critical access to abortion care later in pregnancy. Anti-abortion extremists have their eyes on New Mexico and will stop at nothing to erase this crucial bastion of reproductive freedom from the map of abortion access.
The New Mexico constitution forbids the kinds of discriminatory health care restrictions that places like Hobbs, Clovis, and Roosevelt County have recently passed -- restrictions that have already caused panic, chaos, and confusion in our communities. In response, Attorney General Raul Torrez challenged these ordinances on several constitutional grounds and the ACLU of New Mexico just filed an amicus brief in the case arguing that local policymakers are attempting to deny their communities essential health care protected by the New Mexico constitution and statutory law.
We cannot shy from aggressively defending those rights at every turn.
This is where the importance of our legislative victories comes in. In addition to the constitutional safeguards already in place, by creating law that explicitly forbids local governments from imposing restrictions on health care access, the ACLU and its allies have given the courts another clear and unequivocal basis for rejecting the ordinances. Our multi-pronged approach to protecting civil liberties is so important – it will take every tool in our tool box of litigation, legislative advocacy, and public education to ensure New Mexico remains a place where every person can make their own medical decisions without government interference.
Over the last year, we as a nation have learned just how fragile the right to abortion and gender affirming care is. We cannot shy from aggressively defending those rights at every turn. But our every move must be careful and strategic. The futures of families are at stake.