Radical and progressive activists recently led the way to an important victory for working-class women in New Mexico. For the past three years, several organizations in New Mexico, including the Party for Socialism and Liberation, have struggled to force the repeal of a 1969 New Mexico law which made it illegal for women to make their own decisions about their bodies. Finally reacting to significant protests, on Feb. 26, the governor signed a bill which repealed the law that made abortion illegal.
This ban was, of course, unenforceable under the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. However, with the new conservative-dominated Supreme Court, the real fear that this latent law could come into effect spurred action.
PSL members joined other organizations in a series of protests during the 2018 legislative session, including a rally which disrupted proceedings. Comrades also collected more than 2,500 signatures on a petition calling on legislators to repeal this oppressive law.
On Jan. 22, 2018, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, PSL members unfurled a 30-foot banner in the House gallery demanding “Repeal the Abortion Ban Now!” This gesture underscored the strength of this militant movement for abortion rights in New Mexico.
Unfortunately, these efforts failed to move conservative Democrats to repeal the law. Many of these same Democrats then lost reelection bids in the 2020 primary elections largely because of that vote. Their replacements helped lead the way to the repeal.
The fight for equality must continue
This success is important and something to celebrate, but major steps remain to be taken to ensure the rights of women — especially working-class and poor women, and women from super-oppressed groups, like Black, Latino and Native women.
New Mexico is an overwhelmingly rural state with little access to abortion facilities. Only three cities — Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Santa Teresa — have abortion clinics. Yet, New Mexico is the fifth largest state in the United States. In addition, the vital need for abortion in these few clinics is further strained by women coming to New Mexico from Texas, where anti-women laws have made abortion nearly impossible. In addition, most rural medical centers in New Mexico are owned by Christus St. Vincent, a Catholic organization that is openly anti-abortion.
The cost of abortions remains expensive in New Mexico. Prices range from $1,000 to $3,000, making it exceedingly difficult for working-class women to afford. The unwanted pregnancy rate in New Mexico is one of the highest in the nation, but with high costs and few clinics, many women struggle to find abortion access, even though it is fully legal.
So, the war is not over. A minor battle has been won. To make this right accessible to all who want and need it, we need a society that values and champions women and their bodies, a far cry from the system that exists now. But there is a lesson to be learned from this victory — the working class does have power. The struggle must continue!