Governor signs bill protecting abortion and gender-affirming care providers

Another win for reproductive rights in NM, this law aims to prevent information from out-of-state patients going to states with abortion bans

By: - April 6, 2023 4:30 am

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed SB13 into law on Wednesday, the second law passed this year that supports reproductive rights in New Mexico. (Photo by Megan Myscofski for Source NM)

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill into law today to safeguard women’s and trans healthcare workers and patients from other states seeking to obtain medical information.

The new law, Senate Bill 13, comes as Republican-led states, including neighboring Texas and Arizona, write and pass legislation to ban abortion and gender-affirming care. 

“If we don’t protect providers, you can say you have access, when in fact you do not,” Lujan Grisham said at the bill signing. “The best barrier is to tell providers not to get trained here, not to provide access, not to do the work.”

Effort to protect abortion medical providers and patients passes Senate

University of New Mexico Department of Ob-Gyn Chair Eve Espey told the lawmakers and activists present that providers in the state are working to keep up with significantly higher rates of patients seeking reproductive healthcare from out-of-state. 

“Sometimes I feel like those 40 million patients are coming to our clinic everyday,” she said. 

Charlene Bencomo is the executive director of Bold Futures, a non-profit that advocates on issues affecting women of color in the state.. She said it’s a huge undertaking for reproductive healthcare providers to meet the needs of New Mexicans. Bencomo said hurdles already existed before Roe v. Wade was struck down last year, including access issues to care for  patients traveling due to restrictions in their home state.

Bold Futures released a guide for reproductive healthcare providers in the state, including those who’ve moved from out of state to practice in New Mexico, on best practices for providing inclusive services that are mindful of existing communities and needs. 

“We want to make sure that people aren’t just coming here because they were pushed out of somewhere else,” Bencomo said, “But that they’re a part of the community.” 

She said that includes working with rural and other underserved communities, incorporating the large network of doulas and midwives in the state and providing reproductive care beyond abortions. 

Equality New Mexico Executive Director Marshall Martinez said the new law sends an important message to neighboring states and states with bans on gender-affirming care, which is “That those trans and non-binary folks, their families, their friends and their providers know that what they do in New Mexico is protected and safe.”

He added that the next crucial step is to increase the number of providers in the state.

State Supreme Court suspends ordinances restricting abortion access

The governor said that she expects court challenges in the future from states banning these healthcare services, but is confident that New Mexico law can withstand them. 

“We’re going to have to wait and see what the federal landscape looks like for some of those federal challenges,” she said. “I think it’s hard to predict.”

This is the second of two reproductive healthcare bills that the governor has signed into law this year. The first, House Bill 7, banned local governments and other public bodies from restricting abortion or gender-affirming care.

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Megan Myscofski
Megan Myscofski

Megan Myscofski is a reporter with KUNM's Poverty and Public Health Project. She previously worked as a Business and Economics Reporter at Arizona Public Media, where she also reported, produced and hosted a narrative podcast, Tapped, on the cost of drought in Arizona. Before that, she was a reporter and host at Montana Public Radio and an intern on the podcast "Threshold". Her first audio journalism internship was in Essen, Germany as a high school exchange student.