NM joins 20 states and DC in supporting the right to travel out of Texas for an abortion

By: - September 28, 2022 4:30 am

An attendee at the rally for reproductive rights at Tiguex Park on the evening of Friday, June 24, 2022, holds up a sign implying that guns have more rights than people with uteruses in light of this week’s rulings by the Supreme Court. (Photo by Shelby Wyatt for Source NM)

New Mexico’s Attorney General is now part of a 20-state coalition seeking to protect people living in Texas who must travel out of state for abortion services. 

Last week, the state joined 20 others and the District of Columbia in an amicus brief in support of the class-action lawsuit Fund Texas Choice v. Paxton that is seeking a federal injunction to stop anti-abortion laws in Texas. 

The case was originally filed in federal court in August by a coalition of Texas reproductive rights groups, arguing that the state’s trigger law banning abortion targets the services those groups provide. They fundraise for travel costs and hotels, and link up patients in Texas to abortion providers where the practice is legal, such as New Mexico. 

The groups say their fundraising operations to pay for those services are under threat, as well. They argue that the Texas laws could be interpreted in a way that leads to legal penalties, violating Texas residents’ rights to freely move across state lines for abortion care.

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The brief was filed in support of people from those 21 locations where abortion services are legal but who live in Texas for school or work. They argue that Texas law violates “federal constitutional right to interstate travel by impeding the movement of individuals across Texas state lines.”

Texas was one of several places that had a state in law in place banning abortion outright or after a certain period during a person’s pregnancy. Those laws went into effect shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson, which overturned constitutionally protected access to abortions.

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Yesterday, The Texas Tribune reported that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the defendant in the case, fled his home to avoid getting served subpoena papers related to the case.

In the amicus brief, the states argue that Texas laws “are likely to cause unwanted pregnancies, imposing grave socioeconomic and health consequences, including complications resulting in death.”

They say that the anti-abortion laws will mostly impact low-income residents and those from rural communities.

The 20 states and the District of Columbia say that thousands of their residents live in Texas for college, graduate school or temporary work, and that millions more visit Texas annually. 

“The coalition has a significant interest in ensuring that those residents may leave Texas and return to their home state to access time-sensitive, lawful, and safe medical care, including abortions,” they write.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said his office signed onto the amicus brief to protect New Mexicans “and our health care providers from legal threats that infringe on constitutional rights, including the right to travel across state lines.”

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The states also argue that abortion providers who live in Texas but are licensed to work in places where the practice is legal won’t be able to travel and provide services in those states “without imperiling their liberty.”

Other states signed onto the amicus brief include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington and Washington, D.C..

“The number of individuals choosing to cross state lines for abortion care will likely substantially increase as more severe and punitive abortion restrictions take effect,” the states write the court.

New Mexico reproductive providers are not only seeing that increase but also worry they don’t have the capacity to meet new demand.

In September, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she will use $10 million in state money to build a clinic in Las Cruces, N.M., just hours away from the Texas border. Lujan Grisham and state lawmakers have consistently spoken in support of ensuring New Mexico upholds reproductive rights in the state. 

U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.) told Source NM in September that staffing and rural clinics have to be a priority within that promise.

“We have a shortage of providers. There’s major barriers, irrespective of what’s happening in policy and in the budget, just for individuals who need access to care,” she said. “New Mexico has a health care provider shortage overall. And one of the big challenges, especially in our rural areas, is that we don’t have access to a lot of health care clinics of any kind.”

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Shaun Griswold
Shaun Griswold

Shaun Griswold is a journalist in Albuquerque. He is a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, and his ancestry also includes Jemez and Zuni on the maternal side of his family. He grew up in Albuquerque and Gallup. He brings a decade of print and broadcast news experience. Most recently he covered Indigenous affairs with New Mexico In Depth. Shaun reports on issues important to Native Americans in urban and tribal communities throughout the state, including education and child welfare.

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