In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade last summer, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham pledged $10 million for a reproductive health care clinic that includes abortion services in Doña Ana County.
Now, this money has been officially approved as part of this year’s capital spending bill.
Although some groups have already begun work on planning a facility that would offer a broader spectrum of reproductive services, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office could not yet say which organizations would receive the funding.
“$10 million in capital expenditures to plan, design and build a reproductive health clinic in Doña Ana County,” spokeswoman Maddie Hayden said.
He added that the governor’s office “has had conversations with a broad coalition of reproductive health care groups about what their vision is for this project.”
With the capital spending bill including millions of dollars to fund a clinic that provides abortion services, nearly every Republican legislator voted against the bill. Traditionally, capital spending bills are passed almost unanimously.
Senate Minority Whip Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, called the inclusion a “slap in the face” and said a center that offers abortions is “too controversial to fund.”
“We fund things within our districts like road and infrastructure improvements, safety in our schools — never abortion clinics or anything like that,” Brand said. “It’s basically saying we don’t care about your religious beliefs, we don’t care what you think, we don’t care what your constituents believe.”
The capital outlay bill passed the Senate 27-13, with nearly every Democrat voting for it. Democratic Sen. Shannon Pinto of Tohatchi voted no, while two Republicans – Sen. Stuart Ingle of Portales and Sen. Steven Neville of Aztec – voted yes.
In the House, the bill passed 41-26 with all Republicans voting against it and all Democrats — except Rep. Joseph Sanchez of Alcalde and Rep. Anthony Allison of Fruitland — voting for it.
“Capital outlay bills pass unanimously every year with about 30 seconds of debate,” said Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington, adding that he objected to taxpayer money being used on a building for a private business. “This year it wasn’t because of the $10 million. A billion dollars in capital expenditure and $10 million was the debate – the whole debate.
Meanwhile, organizations working to expand access to reproductive health care are in talks with a New Mexico hospital and Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains about a joint venture for a clinic.
Adrian Barboa, New Mexico policy director for Strong Families New Mexico, said a memorandum of understanding between the organizations has been drafted, but not yet signed.
“This is the first time I’ve seen this kind of collaboration where this large entity is on the same playing level as two local community organizations,” Barboa said. “We have the same powers and decision-making powers around this centre. We are forming a community-centric board.”
A UNMH spokeswoman said it was “just one of many seats at the table” and referred all questions to the governor’s office. Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains did not respond to questions.
Start early at the clinic
In 2021 — before the Texas Senate enacted Bill 8, which banned abortion after six weeks, and the U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade — a scoping grant with UNM to determine where Bold Futures NM and Strong Families New Mexico began working on it should open a reproductive health care clinic, said Charlene Bencomo, executive director of Bold Futures in Las Cruces.
The group settled in Doña Ana County and soon, he said, Planned Parenthood wanted to get involved.
As conversations continued with community members, many pointed to a lack of access to all types of reproductive health care, not related to abortion, Bencomo said.
“As someone who was born and raised here in southern New Mexico, I can definitely say that the wait list for just a simple Pap smear can be months long even for someone who has insurance and fills out all the check marks that you “One can only get access to such services,” he said.
Now, Bencomo said, they are working to make the plan a reality. The expected timeframe is anywhere from one to two years and quite a bit more money still needs to be raised.
As New Mexico becomes a destination for abortion services from other states, advocates say the state must “go beyond Roe” to make these services, and other health care, more accessible to far-flung, diverse communities.
“A choice is not a choice if you don’t have the income to get there, you don’t have the means…,” Barboa said. “We in New Mexico – because of the work we’ve been able to do – we’ve been able to surpass Roe, and a lot of that is actually providing some basic health care services to our rural communities. “
He emphasized that Medicaid already covers abortion care in New Mexico and that much of what the clinic will do is expand access to health care throughout the state.
“With or without this $10 million, this clinic is going to be a community-driven, full-spectrum reproductive health clinic that works to address very basic needs, abortion care, to transition people who need (care),” Barboa said.
For more details on New Mexico abortion services, read another Journal story here.