As 2020 finally comes to an end (thank goodness!) and we prepare to celebrate the December holidays in safe and thoughtful ways, we at the Southwest Women’s Law Center turn our attention to the upcoming legislative session, which begins at the end of January. While it is still unclear how the 2021 legislative session will proceed vis a vis Covid-19, one thing is certain, this will be a consequential legislative session.
The SWLC is involved in several pieces of legislation: the Paid Family Medical Leave Act which supports New Mexico workers who experience a serious medical condition, have or adopt a child, or need to care for someone experiencing a serious medical condition and a bill that temporarily expands Unemployment Insurance due to a public health emergency, such as COVID-19. The SWLC also supports a Paid Sick Leave bill to support workers so they do not have to go to work while they are ill and of course, legislation to repeal New Mexico’s dormant Abortion Ban.
The Abortion Ban passed in 1969 and was found for the most part to be unconstitutional in 1973 as a result of Roe v. Wade. The Abortion Ban is described as “dormant” because only two provisions of the law remain in effect, a religious refusal provision and a provision requiring licensed physicians to perform abortion procedures. The problem is that the Abortion Ban is still on the books in its entirety, including those provisions that were found unconstitutional in 1973. A complete and total repeal of the Abortion Ban is more important now than ever before.
The most devasting thing the outgoing Trump administration was able to achieve during the last four years was to stack the federal courts with ultra-right-wing attorneys in judicial positions in federal district, appellate and the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court now sits with a 6-3 conservative majority. The effects of stacking the federal bench will be felt for decades.
Roe v. Wade, decided by the Supreme Court in 1973, established the right to abortion care and is the only thing that stands between New Mexico in 2020, where decisions about when and if to parent are made freely, without interference by the state and New Mexico in 1969, where a panel of strangers will decide if you receive abortion care under a very limited set of circumstances and where medical providers could be criminally prosecuted for providing abortion care. Given the new conservative majority in the Supreme Court, it is a near certainty that they will take the first opportunity to overturn Roe. At the very moment Roe v. Wade is overturned, New Mexico will be thrown back to 1969 and the landscape relating to the provision of abortion care in New Mexico will be turned on its head. That is why it is so important to repeal the Abortion Ban in its entirety this upcoming legislative session. Time is literally running out.
We must remain vigilant. In addition to the overall threat to abortion rights in New Mexico due to the near-certain overturning of Roe v Wade, there are those opportunists who would attempt to capitalize on the COVID-19 pandemic and claim that abortion care is not “essential” and thus abortion care providers should be shut down during the pendency of the pandemic. This is of course nonsense. What could be more essential when it comes to the consequences of being denied abortion care? Yet there are also those who are so desperate and hateful that they argue healthcare workers in New Mexico who bravely and tirelessly stand up to COVID -19 every day should not be called heroes because they work in a facility where abortion care is provided. That type of reasoning can only be called twisted. Where does it end?
The SWLC urges New Mexicans to throw their support behind legislation to repeal the Abortion Ban in its entirety during this upcoming legislative session. You can find your legislator at Find My Legislator. It has to be done this legislative session. If Roe is overturned before the repeal of New Mexico’s Abortion Ban, at the risk of sounding dramatic, life as we know it will change. Please contact your legislators and make sure that you are heard during this very dangerous time in New Mexico. We are counting on you.
To donate to our efforts to repeal New Mexico’s dormant abortion ban, please visit our donation page.