Lujan Grisham issues order aimed at shielding abortion access in NM - Albuquerque Journal

Lujan Grisham issues order aimed at shielding abortion access in NM

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signs an executive order Monday aimed at shielding abortion patients and providers in New Mexico, as Senate Majority Whip Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, looks on. The executive order aligns New Mexico with other states like Minnesota and Massachusetts that have moved to protect abortion access in the wake of last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned a landmark 1973 case. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

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SANTA FE – Three days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a landmark abortion ruling, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Monday signed an executive order aimed at protecting abortion patients and providers in New Mexico.

The executive order, which drew Republican criticism and could be repealed by a future governor, comes as New Mexico is bracing for an influx of patients from neighboring states that have banned abortion.

Specifically, it seeks to shield health care professionals targeted by lawsuits from losing their licenses or being disciplined for providing abortion services, while also asserting the state will not comply with abortion-related arrest warrants or extradition requests from other states.

“We will not further imperil the rights and access points of anyone in New Mexico,” Lujan Grisham said at a Monday news conference at the state Capitol. “Abortion is and will continue to be legal, safe and accessible, period.”

The Democratic governor, who was flanked by abortion rights advocates, also said other steps such as codifying abortion rights in state statute and providing additional public health funding could be pursued during the 60-day legislative session that starts in January.

“I would expect those things would all be in the mix,” said Lujan Grisham, who said she did not plan to call a special session focused on abortion before then.

The executive order signed Monday aligns New Mexico with other states – including Massachusetts and Minnesota – that have also moved quickly to protect access to abortion in the wake of Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned nearly 50 years of legal precedent.

With abortion clinics in other states closing their doors due to bans that took effect upon the Supreme Court ruling, Lujan Grisham said the nation was in a “national battle” over reproductive rights.

Already, roughly 1,700 patients from Texas have traveled to New Mexico for abortion services since a law restricting abortion was enacted in that state in September 2021, according to Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

“We know that other states will be trying their hardest to criminalize abortion,” said Senate Majority Whip Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, who also attended Monday’s news conference.

While the Supreme Court’s ruling could have a significant ripple effect in New Mexico, it isn’t expected to curtail abortion rights in the state.

That’s because state legislators last year – following the election defeat of some anti-abortion Democrats – repealed a 1969 abortion ban that had been unenforceable because of the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.

But some Democratic legislative leaders have now said more should be done.

In addition to possibly enshrining abortion rights directly in state law, other legislative changes could include helping women from out of state who travel to New Mexico to seek an abortion and providing incentives to health care clinics that provide abortion services.

Such proposals would likely draw fierce opposition from Republican lawmakers, however, as Sen. Crystal Diamond, R-Elephant Butte, predicted the governor’s order would exacerbate health care shortages and long waiting times in New Mexico.

“Thousands will now flock to our state for abortions at a time when we are already struggling to provide care to those who need it most,” Diamond said in a statement. “It is time for the governor to stop pandering to donors and out of state interests, and put the needs of New Mexicans first.”

Meanwhile, the issue of abortion access could also emerge as a political lightning-rod in this year’s race for governor, along with other electoral contests.

Republican Mark Ronchetti, who won a five-way GOP primary race for governor, said Friday he would support legislation banning abortion after 15 weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest and when a mother’s life is in jeopardy.

When asked about her opponent’s stance, Lujan Grisham accused Ronchetti on Monday of having “extreme views” on the issue and said his position on abortion shifted after the primary election.

“I’ve been consistent on my record here,” said Lujan Grisham, who opposes any restrictions on abortion and volunteered for several years for the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice before being elected to Congress in 2012.

In response, a Ronchetti campaign spokesman said the Republican nominee has been clear about his anti-abortion views and laid out his legislative position on the same day the Supreme Court released its ruling.

“The governor supports abortion up to birth and is doubling down on making New Mexico the country’s leading late term abortion destination,” Ronchetti spokesman Enrique Knell told the Journal.

For her part, Lopez said Ronchetti’s proposal would be a “non-starter” in the Democratic-controlled Legislature, though some Democrats have in recent years voted in favor of abortion restrictions.

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