New Mexico Showed Us What Protecting Abortion Rights Looks Like
This photo of Jodie Herrera’s reproductive freedom mural was provided by the ACLU of New Mexico. See more of Herrera’s work here.
Even though the Trump administration has ended, threats to reproductive rights have not. In the first months of 2021, states have introduced nearly 400 measures to restrict access to abortion in an effort to push abortion further out of reach or force the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade entirely. But reproductive freedom advocates aren’t taking this assault on our rights lightly: We’re fighting back. There are bright spots on the horizon. Just last month, our state, New Mexico, successfully repealed an abortion ban that had been on the books since 1969, and that we had been fighting to end for years.
We can’t understate the importance of this victory. If we hadn’t successfully removed the ban, and Roe were to fall, patients at any stage of pregnancy could have been forced to beg for permission to have an abortion in front of a panel of strangers. Anyone who performed an abortion outside of this inhumane process could have been charged with a felony. People receiving this care also could have been investigated and charged. If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, outdated abortion bans still technically in place in other states could go back into effect.
New Mexicans no longer have to fear that reality. On February 26, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed S.B. 10, the Respect New Mexico Women and Families Act, into law. This bill is a repeal of New Mexico’s old, outdated abortion ban. It is validation of what we know: New Mexicans have long believed that politicians do not have any place in a person’s reproductive health care.
This victory did not come out of nowhere. In fact, efforts to repeal this ban failed before, in 2017, 2018, and again in 2019. We were several votes short just because of a few conservative lawmakers in the New Mexico Senate. In 2019 the measure failed by just three votes. So last May, we promised to work not only with our longstanding community partners and allied elected officials, but with our national organization to hold those lawmakers accountable. And that’s exactly what we did.
Together, the ACLU of New Mexico and the national ACLU organized a voter education and mobilization campaign. This voter education campaign zeroed in on key districts of state senators who voted to keep the abortion ban in 2019. In response, New Mexicans showed up and sent a clear message to these lawmakers: We support abortion rights. As a result, we wound up with a legislature that was willing to repeal this outdated law.
Then, we set our legislative strategy into motion. The Respect New Mexico Women and Families Act is a reminder of why efforts like these need to be led by on-the-ground activists and advocates. The Respect New Mexico Coalition in particular, co-chaired by Black and Indigenous women, has been a critical leader in this fight for years. As an intersectional movement of women, families, faith leaders, and medical providers, Indigenous, Black, and Latinx reproductive justice leaders alongside reproductive rights advocates, this coalition embodies what we know to be true: Reproductive health care impacts everyone in a community, and so must our organizing.
The bill had widespread support from a huge range of communities. Birth workers, nurses, and doctors testified and wrote public comments supporting the bill and their associations endorsed repeal. Indigenous, Black, Latinx, and Asian leaders, religious leaders, legal experts, LGBTQ-plus folks, people of color, and people from rural communities all supported this bill. Both teenagers and people who experienced the world before Roe v. Wade supported this bill.
Several organizations worked with local artists to commission posters, murals, and other art to inspire respect for what reproductive justice looks like. The ACLU of New Mexico sponsored a mural by New Mexican artist and advocate Jodie Herrera. State Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena and state Sen. Linda Lopez, both women of color, were the fearless lead sponsors on this bill; they were joined by Speaker of the New Mexico House Brian Egolf, Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, Reps. Joanne Ferrary, Georgene Louis, and Debbie Armstrong. And, 23 other state senators signed onto S.B. 10 when it was introduced.
The consequences of this win extend beyond our state. With attacks on abortion access in Arizona and the constant barrage of anti-abortion measures in Texas, it is critical that New Mexico remain a haven for reproductive health care for all pregnant people. As states around the country continue to dismantle abortion protection and access, we can now start to look forward and work to expand access to care, making abortion care, birth control, and period products even more equitably available, improving gender equity, and increasing training opportunities among medical professionals and birth workers to prevent maternal and infant mortality.
So, here is what we know: When we work together, locally and nationally, and mobilize all of our resources, we win. And that’s what we’ll continue to do. Together, our legislatures can reflect the will and needs of communities across the country.