|With all that 2020 has been, the issues we here at SWLC have been at work to remedy for our families and community have been magnified immensely. Here is our -End of the Year- break down and the endeavors we will continue through the coming year.|
We are so grateful for our team and each of the moving parts that keep us connected to you (our supporters), and our funders.
Our new office manager, Jamie Savage, has been imperative to ensure that our team expansion efforts are up to date. She has been keeping us in check with our social media platforms, which has made for a smooth transition for our new Communications Consultant, Erica Davis-Crump, who joined us in November. Jamie has also equipped us for the coming legislative session. This is critical as it will be our first virtual session, which is unprecedented.
Paid Family Medical Leave (PFML) is being led by Tracy McDaniel. To date, the PFML coalition has been able to present to the Governor’s Racial Justice Commission’s Health Subcommittee. The PFML coalition has been growing abundantly, making for intersectional outreach. Tracy has been garnering great support through community leadership as well. The SWLC will be working on a revised PFML bill this coming 2021 Legislative Session.
Reproductive & Gender Justice, is being led by Wendy Basgall. We are working with partners to expand access to menstrual supplies, specifically in the city of Albuquerque. In preparation for the coming legislative session, Wendy has been working along with the Coalition for Choice to repeal the outdated Abortion Ban law from 1969. With our recent win for pregnant worker accommodations, we will oversee the proper implementation and protections of that legislation. We have obtained several grants to work on discrediting disinformation about Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARC) in New Mexico’s Indigenous communities. We have also received a small grant to work with the Indigenous communities to determine why abortion care is not being provided, even when legal under the Hyde Amendment’s exceptions regarding health of mother.
In the first week of December, we observed and supported the Congressional hearing to end the Hyde Amendment. We also signed a letter of support to end the Hyde Amendment, along with more than 100 other supporting partner organizations nationwide.
This year, there has been a huge spotlight on Indigenous women’s wellness. Our executive director and champion, Terrelene Massey (Navajo), has been fundamental in the critical solutions that are being realized. Terrelene has been working with and on the board of the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women (CSVANW) since last year. Terrelene is also working on the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) that CYFD will be pushing this coming legislative session providing input to the CSVANW staff. Terrelene was also recently approved to practice in the recently created ICWA court in Bernalillo County under a partnership with the Pegasus Legal Services for Children in 2021. She will also be working with Wendy on the issues impacting Native American women reproductive services.
In the fall of this year, SWLC submitted position statements on Savanna’s Act (requires the Justice Department to establish justice and law enforcement protocols to address missing and murdered Native Americans) and the Not Invisible Act (establishes a commission to study violence in and against the Native American community). Just last month, Terrelene presented on these federal legislations at the State Bar of New Mexico’s on this subject, speaking about these bills from a state and federal level perspective. The CSVANW was also on this panel, along with the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department and the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office.
This coming year, the SWLC will continue efforts to lead this spectrum of economic security, gender equity and reproductive justice. You have been an essential part of ensuring we can continue and expand our work as pillars of support for our communities.
To donate to our efforts please click the donation button below.
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.
Understanding abortion sentiment among Indigenous communities is a bit more complex, as there are hundreds of different tribes in the U.S. with different cultural practices and perspectives. But case studies (and the above data from PRRI) give us a sense that, in general, there is support for abortion rights and access among various different Indigenous groups. A small survey commissioned by the Southwest Women’s Law Center in 2020 found that 81 percent of Native Americans in New Mexico (the population and area studied) agreed with the statement that women and families deserve to make their own health-care decisions without government interference. Additionally, only 25 percent of those surveyed said they would support laws that would make it a criminal offense for doctors to perform abortions.
Terrelene Massey, 44, who is a member of the Navajo Nation and lives in New Mexico, says that, in her experience, Navajo culture deeply shapes how people in her community feel about abortion and other issues. “Traditionally, we are a matrilineal society and women organize, they administer, they manage the household,” she says. From her perspective, she says women in her community are empowered to make their own decisions to manage their families—which extends to their choices about abortion care.
Protesters advocate for the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women to a rally during President Donald Trump’s visit to Phoenix in February. Advocates who have been raising the issue for years are cautiously optimistic about new federal legislation.
File photo by Jonmaesha Beltran, Cronkite News
WASHINGTON – Native American advocates and victim’s families have worked for years to draw attention to Indian Country’s epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women.
The federal government finally passed legislation that could help do something about it.
The House gave final approval this week to two bills, Savanna’s Act and the Not Invisible Act, that would essentially force a review of the problem and create a federal plan of action. The bills are awaiting the president’s signature.
Photo Credit: AP
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
March 15, 1933-September 18, 2020
The Southwest Women’s Law Center would like to recognize the passing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on September 18, 2020 at the age of 87. Justice Ginsburg was a tireless crusader for gender-based equal rights and a reproductive rights supporter, often through powerful dissents.
A staunch supporter and warrior for gender-based equal rights while working on both sides of the bench, Justice Ginsburg herself faced numerous instances of gender-based discrimination throughout her life, which through perseverance and tenacity she turned to triumphs and firsts. No matter what obstacle was placed before her, she overcame it, whether professional or personal. A lesson for us all, especially during these troubling times.
During her first year at Harvard Law School, she was grilled by the dean about why she thought she had the right to take a place away from a male student. She refused to allow that attitude to deter her from success, becoming the first women to make the Harvard Law Review. After finishing her second year at Harvard, she transferred to Columbia University Law School to complete her final year (her husband, Marty, had taken a position with a law firm in New York) where she also made law review and graduated at the top of her class.
After graduation, she experienced significant obstacles in finding fulfilling work, from fewer options and lower pay than her would be male colleagues, to outright discrimination based on her gender, her status as a mother and being Jewish. Her early career included clerking for a U.S. District Court judge for two years, then working on a project studying international civil procedure (specifically Swedish civil procedure) and then teaching, first at Rutgers University Law School and then at Columbia Law School, where she became the first woman faculty member to earn tenure. During her time teaching at Columbia, she became the director of the Women’s Rights Project for the American Civil Liberties Union, where she argued several important sex discrimination cases in front of the Supreme Court of the United States. She was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by President Jimmy Carter in 1980 and then onto the Supreme Court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, where she served until her death on September 18, 2020.
In addition to the obstacles she experienced professionally, Justice Ginsburg had experienced her share of personal struggles, particularly with her health. Justice Ginsburg suffered numerous bouts of cancer throughout her life, all of which she overcame, until losing her final bout with pancreatic cancer. Notwithstanding these numerous health issues, she rarely let them interfere with her work on the Court. In January of 2019, she missed oral arguments for the very first time since taking the bench in 1993 and this because she was recovering from surgery to treat lung cancer. She was still able to participate and vote in the matter as she was able to read the transcript of the oral argument.
In the last decades of her life, she became a cultural icon of sorts, having been given the moniker “Notorious RBG”, a riff on rapper “Notorious B.I.G”. She seemed to enjoy this new notoriety,
although appeared somewhat perplexed by it as well. There are any number of t-shirt designs and knick knacks featuring Justice Ginsburg, documentaries made about her life, her name is featured in hundreds of songs and children dress up in her likeness for Halloween. Her public appearances were an event, with people waiting in line to see her speak.
Perhaps it was her small stature, her righteous dissents, the fact that she tried so hard to keep going until it was safe to let go, or the simple fact that she had personally experienced many of the scenarios which had come before her as a jurist, which is typically not the case with the predominantly white male jurists that populate the courts of this nation. She is undoubtedly the only Supreme Court justice who can be identified by a majority of Americans and the rent left in the fabric of society by her passing cannot be mended.
One last thing. In the days since Justice Ginsburg’s death, which fell on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, there has been telling of a Jewish tradition where one who dies on Rosh Hashanah is a Tzadik (also spelled Tzaddik), a person of great righteousness. How perfect. We cannot let her down. We must keep moving forward in her honor.
The Southwest Women’s Law Center sends its deepest condolences to the family of Justice Ginsburg, her Court family, friends, and all those across the United States who loved her.
New Investigation Reveals 19% of New Mexico-based CPCs Promote Renegade Practice Known as “Abortion Pill Reversal”
(New Mexico, September 15, 2020) – A new investigation shows that nineteen percent of “crisis pregnancy centers” based in New Mexico promote an unethical experimental practice on pregnant people called “abortion pill reversal.”
“Claims regarding abortion ‘reversal’ treatment are not based on science and do not meet clinical standards,” according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). “So-called abortion ‘reversal’ procedures are unproven and unethical.”
This practice is not limited to New Mexico. The investigation focused on eight other states in addition to New Mexico, including, California, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota. Despite warnings from medical experts, the anti-abortion movement is focused on pushing “abortion pill reversal” from the fringes of anti-science activism into mainstream awareness through crisis pregnancy centers and laws mandating doctors mislead patients by claiming they can “reverse” a medical abortion. Like CPC websites, such laws “essentially encourage women to participate in an unmonitored research experiment,” according to an analysis in the New England Journal of Medicine.
During a medical abortion, a patient takes two drugs—first mifepristone, then misoprostol. Studies show it is a safe and effective method with no reports of long-term risks.
The renegade practice of “abortion pill reversal” is based on a theory developed by an anti-choice activist physician who conducted experiments on seven pregnant women in a study not supervised by an institutional review board or ethical review committee. The practice involves administering high doses of progesterone to pregnant people who have taken mifepristone, the first of two drugs used for a medical abortion, and discouraging consumption of the second drug, misoprostol.
The FDA has not approved of dispensing mifepristone without misoprostol, or this use of progesterone. The health effects on the patient and embryo are unknown.
“Anti-abortion activists are openly promoting medical experimentation with unknown health effects on pregnant Pennsylvanians,” says Susan J. Frietsche, director of the Western Pennsylvania office of the Women’s Law Project. “It’s unethical, dangerous, and echoes the darkest days of American history when brown and Black bodies were grotesquely exploited for medical experimentation. Does the state even know if Real Alternatives, the umbrella organization of CPCs that has so far received more than $100 million in taxpayer money, is participating in or promoting this abusive practice?” Forty percent of CPCs in Pennsylvania promote “abortion pill reversal”.
A systematic review conducted in the wake of the seven-person experiment found no evidence that pregnancy continuation was more likely after treatment with progesterone as compared with expectant management among women who had taken mifepristone.
“Crisis pregnancy centers target vulnerable people experiencing unplanned pregnancies. Many people who wind up at a CPC would not necessarily know they were being misled about their reproductive choices,” says Amal Bass, WLP director of policy and advocacy. “Beyond the obvious danger of experimentally dispensing powerful medicine to pregnant people, I worry about the person who might start a medical abortion even if they aren’t sure it’s the right decision for them because they were misled to believe they can just change their mind. This undermines informed consent in a particularly cruel way.”
The anti-abortion movement’s new emphasis on promoting abortion pill reversal coincides with the crisis pregnancy center movement’s increased efforts to target Black and brown clients.
“We are just beginning to reckon with our country’s long, shameful history of racist and sexist medical abuse,” says WLP attorney Christine Castro, “And now we’re seeing a coordinated effort to promote a new form of racist and sexist experimentation on pregnant people.”
Last year, the American Medical Association filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a North Dakota bill that attempted to force doctors to mislead patients by telling them about abortion pill reversal. The AMA said such laws “forc[ed] physicians …to act as mouthpieces for politically motivated messages that are misleading and could lead to patient harm.” In September, a judge blocked the law, stating it was “devoid of scientific support, misleading, and untrue.”
This March, a watchdog group called Campaign for Accountability asked the FDA to seize websites promoting this practice.
The Southwest Women’s Law Center and its partners in The Alliance, a collaboration of regional law centers working to ensure equitable access to evidence-based reproductive healthcare, conducted this investigation into crisis pregnancy centers promoting “abortion reversal” as part of a larger project. The Alliance law centers – Gender Justice, Legal Voice, Southwest Women’s Law Center, and Women’s Law Project – are working with California Women’s Law Center and reproductive epidemiologist Dr. Laura Dodge to conduct a systematic review of crisis pregnancy centers operations in Alaska, California, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington State.
Of the nine states included in this investigation, Washington state has the highest rate of promoting “abortion pill reversal” at 49 percent.