On February 1, 2019. State Representative Joanne Ferrary’s Keep Abortion Safe and Legal Bill (HB #51) was heard in the House Judiciary Committee. This bill is a statewide effort to protect women’s access to reproductive healthcare by ensuring that patients and medical providers will not be criminalized when healthcare is provided.
Before Roe v. Wade was decided, the State of New Mexico passed a bill in 1968 that would have outlawed abortion in nearly any circumstance. While access to abortion is necessary, we cannot ignore that in our own state, the racism that surrounded (and continues to surround) Indigenous, immigrant, Black, and differently-abled folks, had their reproductive rights stripped from them. The decisions to start a family, expand a family, or keep their family sizes the same were made for them by healthcare providers and legislators.
The Government Accounting Office in 1976 found that Indian Health Services (IHS) around the country had been guilty of forced sterilization of Native American women– in Albuquerque, these procedures were referred out and thus IHS was able to report zero forced sterilizations. This was, of course, a lie. This was a very coordinated effort to decrease the amount of Native American children born and an attempt to help the federal government be released from its federal trust responsibilities to tribes, which includes providing healthcare as payment for stealing land and resources. It must also be noted that immigrant, disabled, and Black women and women deemed “promiscuous” were forcibly sterilized. In the 1960s and 1970s, immigrant women were forced to undergo sterilizations in order to save their babies, or so they were told. Their story was seen in No Más Bebés; the court case that ensued was Madrigal v. Quilligan.
Here in New Mexico, we have an opportunity to keep abortion safe and legal. We have an opportunity to not only protect access to healthcare but restore trust in healthcare when our most marginalized communities need it.