New Mexico’s dormant anti-abortion law

With the retirement of Associate Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace him, the odds of overturning Roe v. Wade increase significantly. Such an outcome would be devastating for women.

Because of Kavanaugh’s nomination, anxieties over reproductive rights have especially intensified in New Mexico. Should the Supreme Court overturn the Roe ruling, states would decide abortion’s legality. New Mexico is one of the few remaining states with an unenforced, pre-Roe law that criminalizes abortion. In a post-Roe New Mexico, the retroactive anti-abortion law would theoretically come into effect.

According to this law, abortion− whether physician performed or self-induced− is a fourth-degree felony under the dormant statute enacted in 1968. This restrictive law justifies abortion only if the pregnancy endangers the woman’s life or if it resulted from rape or incest. Hospitals and physicians would also be able to refuse to admit patients for abortion services based on their religious beliefs.

Making matters worse

The uncertain fate of Roe v. Wade and New Mexico’s antiquated abortion ban make an already bad situation worse,  U.S. politicians’ incremental roll-backs on reproductive rights have already left New Mexican women suffering profound consequences. In fact, New Mexico currently only has four Planned Parenthood locations. Currently, these clinics provide the only options for affordable reproductive services in New Mexico.

Two of those four health centers are in Albuquerque. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 48 percent of New Mexico women live in counties with no abortion clinic. These four remaining Planned Parenthood sites also treat women from nearby southwestern states like Texas where targeted restrictions on abortion providers in essence deny them access to reproductive health services.

Democrats limit the struggle for reproductive rights 

The fundamental right of bodily autonomy dangles precariously amid the upcoming November New Mexico midterm election.  The Republican nominee for New Mexico governor, Steve Pearce, has built his platform around further abortion restrictions.

Democrat politicians are encouraging the New Mexican working-class to entrust them alone to protect  reproductive rights. Liberal pundits are promising that votes for Democrat politicians will be a “game-changer” but passive “resistance” has rarely won anything. The strategy of Democrat politicians is to constrain the struggle of reproductive rights within  electoral and legal domains.

In January of this year, New Mexico Democrats introduced House Bill 16 to repeal the 1968 abortion criminalization law. After the bill’s introduction, it did not even proceed beyond the committee stage. Democrat strategies do not reflect the sense of urgency that further roll-backs on reproductive rights.

The landmark ruling of Roe v. Wade exists because of militant struggle. The pressure of mass movements is the only way to force the political elite into making concessions for working-class people. Defending reproductive rights in New Mexico requires the same sort of militancy. The working-class of New Mexico must forcefully defend their reproductive rights but also demand real, long-lasting solutions.


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