For nearly 50 years, Roe v. Wade has guaranteed the right to abortion in the United States. Now that right stands at the brink of collapse. I won’t mince words. I write with both a heaviness in my heart and a measure of hope that New Mexico can rise to the challenges before us.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two cases challenging a Texas law, SB 8, that prohibits abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, before most people even know they’re pregnant. The novel ban allows anyone to sue abortion providers or anyone who aids in an abortion, creating a bounty-hunting scheme that encourages people to go after health care providers with the promise of at least $10,000 for successful suits. It has effectively closed off access to abortion across Texas.
Anti-abortion politicians intentionally designed the law to make private citizens file lawsuits, rather than state actors, to try to evade state and federal court review. The Supreme Court’s rulings will determine whether or not abortion providers and the Department of Justice, who brought the cases, are even entitled to challenge SB 8. If the Court lets SB 8 stand, we can expect copycat bills to crop up across dozens of other states. In fact, some states have already introduced similar legislation.
As if SB 8 wasn’t threat enough, the Supreme Court just heard arguments in a Mississippi case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that is a frontal assault on Roe. The case centers on a 2018 law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks. If the Supreme Court upholds that law, and effectively overturns Roe, more than 36 million women in 26 states will lose access to abortion, according to recent Planned Parenthood research.
The situation is dire, but we knew this day would come. Since 2017, ACLU of New Mexico staff have worked alongside partners in the Respect New Mexico Women coalition, health care providers, ACLU members, and activists across the state to remove an old abortion ban from our state laws. Last year, we successfully passed a law that did just that, shoring up the rights of people to make their own pregnancy decisions in New Mexico.
While it is a relief that reproductive rights are currently protected in New Mexico, our success also brings new responsibility. Increasingly, people are coming to our state for services that their own states now deny them. New Mexico providers and abortion funds are rising to the challenge of meeting both their needs and those of New Mexicans who require the full scope of reproductive health care.
It’s increasingly clear that New Mexico is set to become a critical bastion of care, both regionally and nationally, in the years to come.
That’s why, over the next few months, we’ll be working with ACLU affiliates from other states and national as well as abortion funds, health care providers, and other partners, to strengthen the infrastructure for protecting and defending the reproductvie rights in our state. This means ensuring that people coming to New Mexico have accurate information about abortion care and other services and are not deceived by fake clinics, known as crisis pregnancy centers, which exist solely to dissuade people from making their own reproductive health decisions. It also means ensuring that people with lower incomes who need abortion care have adequate transportation to New Mexico and funding to receive care. And it means ramping up the full scope of reproductive health care in New Mexico.
I won’t tell you that I am not angry that 36 million people are at risk of having a major health care decision made for them by the government in the middle of a pandemic, when we are already operating under crisis standards of care. But I can tell you that more than anything, I am compelled to keep fighting.
I hope you will continue to fight with us.