Abortion Clinics in New Mexico Receive Inflow from Texas | Local news
Dial the National Abortion Federation helpline and the first recorded message you hear is a woman’s voice asking if the caller is from Texas.
The association, founded in the late 1970s, recently set up a dedicated hotline for Texas women seeking legal abortion services after a new law went into effect Sept. 1 banning the procedure after an embryo was found to have heart activity , or for about six weeks of pregnancy.
Neta Meltzer, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, called the new Texas Heartbeat Act a “virtual total ban,” largely because most women don’t realize they’re six weeks pregnant. She cited Texas’s mandatory 24-hour wait as another barrier for women to legally terminate pregnancy before a heartbeat is detected.
Despite facing numerous challenges from the federal government, vendors and attorneys, the US Supreme Court declined its entry into force this month. Women in Texas are now looking to clinics in other states to source abortion services – including New Mexico.
The very venerable Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, an episcopal priestess and president of the National Abortion Federation, said in an interview: “New Mexico and Oklahoma … when Texas does something stupid, these are the first places people turn. They are already the places people go [for abortion]. “
Leaders from other abortion rights groups across the country and state made similar views, noting that their organizations took more calls and made more appointments for Texan women hoping to come to New Mexico for help.
But your options here are limited: the state only has three medical providers who perform surgical abortions, and all of them are in Albuquerque: Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains’ Albuquerque Surgical Center, the University of New Mexico’s Center for Reproductive Health, and Southwestern Women’s Options.
At least two clinics in the state offer prescription drugs that can lead to abortions: a website for Planned Parenthood in Santa Fe and the Women’s Reproductive Clinic in Santa Teresa, which advertises on its website that it is only a mile from El Paso.
Planned Parenthood operates two other clinics in New Mexico – one in Albuquerques Northeast Heights and one in Farmington – that provide birth control and other health care options for men and women, but do not provide abortion services.
New Mexico has some of the least restrictive abortion laws in the country, but there is a lack of widespread access to services, especially for women in remote areas of the state.
“The locations and the number of vendors are not enough,” said Meltzer of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.
There is concern that patients from Texas may eventually push clinics in that state beyond their capacity. But, said Meltzer: “We’re not there yet.”
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 55,000 abortions were performed in Texas prior to the pandemic outbreak in 2019, compared to over 3,800 in New Mexico.
Joan Lamunyon Sanford, executive director of the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, which provides financial and moral support to women undergoing abortion, said her agency began receiving calls and inquiries from Texas women in late August.
“We’re already seeing a steady increase, and we expect this to continue as more people in Texas discover the limits of the new law,” she said.
Eve Espey, chair of the University of New Mexico’s OB-GYN division and founder of the Center for Reproductive Health, said the events of the past few weeks coincide with what happened during much of the coronavirus pandemic. At the beginning of the pandemic, Texas temporarily suspended abortions and viewed them as non-essential medical services. “We saw a double to triple” the number of women who came to New Mexico for abortion procedures, she said.
According to Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, before the new law went into effect, New Mexico clinics were providing abortions to an average of 8.8 Texan women per week. In the first week after he was passed, they provided abortions for 20 Texan women and have planned at least 64 more.
Proponents of abortion rights say women traveling to New Mexico from other states for an abortion will experience additional emotional, physical, mental, and financial stress.
You may need to take extra time off work, find childcare, refuel for hundreds of miles, and find temporary shelter, said Adrienne Mansanares, chief experience officer for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. These additional burdens contribute to an already high level of “shame or guilt”. You are scared. You can see terror on people’s faces, ”she added.
She said abortion providers in New Mexico are working to “counteract the sense of exclusion, shame and guilt our Texas patients have felt.”
Espey called the extra travel a “logistical nightmare” for women, especially those who do not have the financial means to travel long distances.
The Guttmacher Institute, which tracks and reports on abortion data around the world, reported in a 2019 study that a fifth of U.S. abortion patients traveled more than 50 miles to get an abortion at the nearest facility.
Mansanares said these distances could become longer as we see “migration of people moving further and further from their home communities to get the care they need,” even when it comes to basic health services.
For example, if a planned parenting facility in Albuquerque is fully booked, a woman who normally seeks health care there may need to drive to a facility in Farmington. And if the Farmington woman has no vacancies, the woman may need to seek a service in Colorado.
Mansanares said the situation was “unsustainable. It really is a public health crisis. “
Earlier this year, New Mexico lawmakers repealed a decade-old and unenforceable law making it a crime for a doctor to perform abortions. This move came amid concerns that a more conservative panel of justices in the US Supreme Court might pass the groundbreaking Roe v. Wade in 1973, which could ban, lift, or weaken tough state restrictions on access to abortion.
New Mexico doesn’t have some of the abortion restrictions – like mandatory parental consent for minors or a waiting period – that many other states have.
Tara Shaver, spokeswoman for the anti-abortion organization Abortion Free New Mexico, said she believes less stringent laws will help make New Mexico the “wild west” when it comes to abortion.
The lack of restrictions “gives our state an abortion point of contact, especially for women in surrounding states who have not yet reached the procedure in their home state,” she said.
Laws protect people, Shaver said.
“Even if we don’t agree with them, they still serve a purpose,” she said. “It is not in a woman’s best interests to be encouraged to evade the law of her own state to have a trial carried out elsewhere to kill a child.”
She said her organization does not judge women who choose to have an abortion, but works to provide them with support and resources to get them to reconsider that decision.
Mansanares and other abortion rights leaders said a benefit of the Texas Heartbeat Act is the number of donations they receive from people “outraged” by the law that allows citizens to sue health care providers who offer abortions to women who are older than six weeks pregnant.
“So many people are donating to abortion aid funds and that is critical,” she said.