ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a Texas law that bans most abortions will likely result in more people coming to New Mexico for the procedure, advocates and legal experts said Thursday.
The state already was among the ones that patients travel to because Albuquerque is home to one of only a few independent clinics in the country that perform abortions in the third trimester.
An Associated Press analysis in 2019 found that New Mexico’s share of abortions performed on women from out of state in recent years more than doubled to about 25%. Now, several providers in the state have seen a fourfold increase in patients calls from out of state, particularly from people in Texas.
Officials with New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, which helps women with lodging, transportation and other needs, said they already are experiencing an influx of women from elsewhere and are preparing for more in the next couple of weeks.
Ellie Rushforth, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union in New Mexico who specializes in reproductive rights, said providers are trying to prepare by expanding hours of operation and bringing in more staff.
She called it a terrible day for Texans and for those who have been fighting for years for reproductive freedoms.
“It’s undeniable when any state passes abortion restrictions that folks will still need the care and that those states are just making it more complicated,” she said.
New Mexico earlier this year adopted legislation to overturn a dormant 1969 ban on most abortion procedures. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the measure in February, saying women have the right to make decisions about their bodies.
Had the old statute been left in place, New Mexico’s ban on most abortion procedures would have gone into effect if the U.S. Supreme Court eventually overturns the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.
While there's no pressure so far for the Democrat-controlled Legislature to go further with abortion protections, Lujan Grisham's office said Thursday that the state supports reproductive health care decisions being made between women and their doctors, with no government interference.
“We do not and we will not stand for any attempts to criminalize or restrict health care access in New Mexico,” said Nora Meyers Sackett, the governor's spokeswoman.
She added that “draconian laws in neighboring states” may increase the need for abortion services in New Mexico.
The Texas law bans abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, usually around six weeks — before some people know they’re pregnant. In a highly unusual twist, enforcement will be done by private citizens who can sue anyone they believe is violating the law.
Rushforth said limited access to abortion services in Texas had already resulted in waiting lists that were pushing more patients to New Mexico and other states. She called New Mexico a “safe haven” for people who are afraid and are now having to navigate what she called an impossible legal landscape.
“These consequences will continue to be enormous as we move forward,” she said. “The financial and logistical barriers for many abortion patients are often times insurmountable.”
Democratic state Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero of Albuquerque said she wants New Mexico to continue to provide safe passage for those seeking abortion procedures. She voiced concerns about the potential of the Texas law leading to underground abortion procedures.
“I would hope that we would continue to be welcoming and that our priority would be to save lives," she said. "It’s our decision and if it’s going to be our decision, it should be a safe and healthy outcome.”