On March 13, the Democratic-controlled New Mexican state Senate, where a sizable Democratic majority wields power, voted to uphold the state’s 50-year-old criminal ban on abortion, defying a powerful grassroots movement.
The state senate, which has a 26-16 Democratic majority, killed HB 51, a bill that would have repealed the state’s 1969 Criminal Abortion Law that makes providing an abortion a felony. While the Criminal Abortion Law has not been enforced since 1973 when Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide, it was never repealed either.
The Supreme Court, now in the hands of an anti-abortion majority, is sure to try and overturn Roe, an alarming scenario that has sent grassroots activists in nearly half the country scrambling to belatedly remove state level bans from their books.
A major grassroots effort, which the Party for Socialism and Liberation played an important role in, sought to repeal New Mexico’s pre-Roe abortion ban during the 2019 Legislative Session.
The 2018 midterm election results consolidated Democratic Party control over all statewide elected offices in New Mexico. The mantra from within the liberal establishment was that if all levers of state political power were handed to the Democrats, they could drive forward a progressive agenda, an agenda one would assume includes the rights of women.
Removing the state’s abortion ban and preempting an overturn of Roe by the Supreme Court would seem to be a high priority for a party that claims the mantle of champion-of-women’s-rights. The so-called “blue wave” handed the Democratic Party the governorship and huge majorities in both houses of the state legislature. No party could ask for a more favorable arrangement of political power to literally do anything they want.
However, a full one-third of Democratic Party state senators in New Mexico voted against HB 51, keeping the abortion ban firmly in place. Little can be said for the Democrats who did manage to cast a vote to repeal the ban, most of whom were conspicuously silent when it mattered most, unwilling to spend one penny of political capital during the contentious months of statewide grassroots organizing preceding this legislative defeat.
Failure to repeal New Mexico’s abortion ban when they had all the power to do so speaks volumes about the political substance of the “blue wave” and once again exposes the Democratic Party’s irresolute commitment to women’s rights, and their habitual inclination to sell those rights out in exchange for short-term political gains–in this case, the votes of anti-abortion constituents in a small number of contested electoral districts.
The Democratic Party’s opportunism in New Mexico not only endangers millions of women in the Southwest, but damages the momentum in other states where communities are struggling to repeal similar bans. The need to build an independent, militant feminist movement tied to the streets instead of the “liberal” establishment is more apparent than ever!