Roe v. Wade reversal could have ripple effect on NM health care - Albuquerque Journal

Roe v. Wade reversal could have ripple effect on NM health care

Aleah Montoya listens to speakers during the “We Won’t go back – Bans Off Our Bodies” rally at Tiguex Park in Old Town in protest of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade on Friday, June 24, 2022. (Chancey Bush/ Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico has been at the forefront of providing abortion procedures for many out-of-state patients in recent months, but health centers in the state say they are bracing for an even larger number of individuals after the overturning of Roe v. Wade on Friday – an increase that may have ripple effects across other health services.

“New Mexico is in a health care crisis in general and that extends to reproductive health care,” said Kayla Herring, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. “So as numbers of patients who are coming from out of state (increase), we see prolonged wait times and patients have difficulty accessing other forms of reproductive health care.”

So far, 13 states have trigger laws that will ban abortion within the next 30 days. Other states could also enact legislation restricting abortion.

This signals what providers say will be an influx of out-of-state patients and may strain the state’s health care system since the procedure remains legal in New Mexico.

Herring said patients seeking a test for sexually transmitted infections, birth control prescriptions, pregnancy screenings and other routine medical procedures at Planned Parenthood may have to go to other providers who are already stretched thin.

“This is going to be a public health emergency,” Herring said. “We’re watching it happen as we speak.”

Increased demand

Of the four states sharing a border with New Mexico, three have already placed or will soon place restrictions on abortions, with Arizona set to ban the procedure after 15 weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest in September.

Restrictive abortion laws in adjacent states like Oklahoma and Texas passed prior to Friday’s ruling provided a glimpse into what New Mexico health centers may face in a post-Roe world.

Since Texas passed a law in September banning most abortions after six weeks, New Mexico’s abortion providers have been dealing with a deluge of Texan patients seeking abortions.

About 1,700 patients from Texas have accessed abortion services at Planned Parenthood clinics in New Mexico since the restrictions were enacted, Herring said. Previously, the clinics saw about 400 Texas patients each year.

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, based out of Colorado, oversees four clinics in New Mexico, three of which provide abortion services.

At the University of New Mexico Center for Reproductive Health, wait times increased from 24 hours to two to three weeks after the enactment of the Texas legislation in September, according to Dr. Lisa Hofler, clinical vice chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and chief of the division of Complex Family Planning at the University of New Mexico.

This resulted in a 150% increase in patients seeking abortion care services over the previous year, Hofler told the Journal.

Hofler said the overturning of Roe v. Wade raises concerns that some patients may have to travel for abortion care services and others may be unable to make the journey due to financial or other concerns.

“I really worry that we’re going to see more women dying from pregnancy, because pregnancy is much more dangerous than abortion,” she said.

Herring said Planned Parenthood saw a similar increase in out-of-state abortion seekers following the enactment in May of an Oklahoma law that made providing an abortion a felony.

“We’ve seen a general overall increase in all of the care that we’ve provided,” she said.

New Mexico has long been a place where patients seeking abortion services have traveled due to the state’s unrestrictive laws relating to the procedure. Currently, there are no gestational limits for abortion access in the state.

Though not protected by New Mexico’s Constitution, abortion remains legal in the state. In 2021 the Legislature repealed a 1969 abortion ban, which made it a crime to end a pregnancy except in narrow circumstances. It had been unenforceable because of the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.

New Mexico abortion rights advocates vowed during a Friday news conference they would keep working to make sure abortion services remain available in the state.

But they acknowledged the Supreme Court ruling could increase fear among individuals seeking an abortion and could lead to delays in obtaining such services.

“Let me be clear, our patients are going to be deeply harmed by this decision,” said Dr. Farinaz Khan, an abortion provider in New Mexico.

Organizations that help out-of-state individuals obtain abortions also report a similar increased need for their services, according to Joan Lamunyon Sanford, executive director of the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

The coalition offers practical assistance to patients, including help with travel expenses, lodging, food and other services.

“Since the enforcement of Senate Bill 8 in Texas, we’ve seen at least triple the number of people who have reached out to us for assistance,” Lamunyon Sanford said. “We can only anticipate that that’s going to really increase.”

The coalition faces two challenges going forward, she said.

“It’s going to be an important challenge to make sure that people will know that abortion in New Mexico has been, and will remain, safe and legal,” she said. “The other challenge then will be making sure they can get here safely.”

The coalition is discussing ways to get the word out that New Mexico remains open to those seeking abortions, Lamunyon Sanford said.

While some patients will have the ability to travel to New Mexico, Herring of Planned Parenthood said many others will be unable to do so.

“So many people in this country, specifically Black, Indigenous, people of color, queer and trans folks, low-income, and rural communities are unable to access abortion care,” she said.

Herring said the number of out-of-state patients will also not reflect the number of people seeking abortions.

“It’s only representative of those folks who have the means to travel,” she said.

Journal Capitol Bureau reporters Dan Boyd and Dan McKay contributed to this report.


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