Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Less than a year after New Mexico repealed a long-dormant state abortion ban, the state could see a fervent new battle on the horizon with the U.S. Supreme Court reportedly set to overturn a landmark ruling guaranteeing abortion rights.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who signed last year’s bill, said she was “outraged and horrified” by news reports that cited a draft ruling overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
The potential ruling, she said, underscores the importance of the 2021 legislation repealing New Mexico’s criminal abortion statute.
In remarks to reporters, she also warned that new battles are likely ahead.
“If we can just overturn 50 years of constitutional protections,” Lujan Grisham asked, “what is next? I’m very disturbed by what’s been released, identified as this draft opinion.”
But state Republican leaders lauded the ruling and said it would allow states to enact their own laws on abortion.
News of the draft opinion comes as New Mexico voters prepare to decide the governor’s race and all 70 seats in the state House in elections this year.
“The Supreme Court decision is in the best interest of our nation and protects the unborn,” state Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce said in a written statement. “The Justices have upheld and recognized their duty to protect the lives of the unborn and to abolish the horrors of abortion.”
Lawmakers in New Mexico have repeatedly clashed over abortion, and it emerged as a major issue in the 2020 primary election, when challengers from the left ousted some of the state’s most powerful Democratic state senators.
One of the legislators who won election that year – state Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill, D-Silver City – was in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to receive an award from Emily’s List, a national group that supports Democratic female candidates who support abortion rights.
The Supreme Court’s ruling, she said, could galvanize voters.
“I really feel this is going to activate people and motivate people to turn out,” she told the Journal.
Hemphill also said lawmakers could consider taking additional steps to enshrine reproductive rights in state law, as some other states like Colorado have done.
“We need to move in that direction,” she said.
Sen. Crystal Diamond, an Elephant Butte Republican who took office last year, too, praised the reported court decision but said it would do little to change circumstances in New Mexico, saying, “even if the opinion and report are legitimate, New Mexico will maintain its status as the abortion capital of the country.”
“As it stands, minor girls can obtain abortions without any parental notification and an unborn child can be legally aborted for any reason right up until birth,” Diamond said. “It breaks my heart that women from near and far will come to our beloved state for the sole purpose of ending their pregnancies.”
NBC News reported that the director of Mississippi’s only abortion clinic was prepared to move to New Mexico if the court ultimately overturns Roe v. Wade. Shannon Brewer, the director, said she was making plans to ensure she could keep providing abortion access if her Jackson clinic were forced to close or reduce services, the NBC report said.
Since taking office in 2019, Lujan Grisham pushed for the 1969 state law criminalizing abortions to be abolished.
While legislation seeking to do so failed in 2019, it won approval last year after several moderate Senate Democrats were ousted in the 2020 primary election.
Backers of last year’s bill had pushed for abortion rights to be guaranteed, in case the U.S. Supreme Court were to revisit its Roe v. Wade decision.
The rescinded state law had made it a crime to end a woman’s pregnancy, except in certain circumstances, such as rape. But it was largely unenforceable because of the federal court ruling.
The Republican Party said the Roe decision was always flawed legally.
“Abortion is wrong on moral grounds,” Pearce said, “and I and everyone who stand for life am pleased at the outcome and that the Court has ruled to protect the sanctity of life.”
Lujan Grisham said the potential ruling will “heighten” the political importance of safeguarding abortion rights at the state level.
“It means that half the country, New Mexico included, will respect a woman’s right to choose,” she said, “and we’ll have to fight for that.”