Last night, HB 600, the Women’s “Health and Safety” Act, and HB 608, “Allow Refusal to Admit Patients For Abortion”, AKA “Let Doctors DISCRIMINATE Against Patients Seeking Routine Healthcare Procedures”, were both heard in House Consumer and Public Affairs. There was so much misinformation, vitriol, and microaggressive behavior, we don’t really know where to begin.
For starters, I, Rachael Lorenzo, testified against HB 608 about my experience being denied care. It is despicable that any person must disclose traumatic medical history before the world to speak up against or for bills. My experience with being denied life-saving abortion care in an emergency setting while actively miscarrying at a New Mexico hospital could have left my daughter without a parent. But because an OBGYN was able to save my life, I went on to have another child. Being denied abortion care brought on feelings of dehumanization and worthlessness- I was in the most excruciating pain I have ever experienced and was not only denied abortion care but I was also denied pain management. It was embarrassing and is embarrassing to this day, to have to relive this traumatic event in my life. In my naivete, I thought all doctors were on my side, to provide life-saving care. Just months before, I was denied by THREE doctors to take out my Intrauterine Device, or IUD, because I was told that I was too young to have another baby and the IUD was working the way it was supposed to (bleeding for nearly 10 months straight is normal? Okay, Susan). For those of you who are curious, the bleeding stopped the day after I FINALLY got the IUD removed. I was gas-lit for months- made to feel like I did not know my own body. This is one example of thousands where Indigenous people have had medical decisions made for them by medical providers and the government in the most arbitrary fashion- from forced sterilization to literally stealing our children to be sent off to boarding schools.
My colleague, a lobbyist, told her personal story about having open heart surgeries and experiencing HEART FAILURE after giving birth to her twins. While she was surrounded by a team of quality, experienced medical providers, she needed to have all her options on the table, including abortion. What she did not need was a provider denying her care in the event her pregnancy did not go as planned and then dying because a doctor valued her uterus over a living, breathing whole person, someone who is deeply loved and valued, who has expertise that our community needs.
Our stories were not met with sympathy. A patient who passed away after being transferred to the University of New Mexico from a local abortion clinic, her mother was present to testify that her daughter paid the ultimate price for abortion care. We feel terribly for a mother who lost her daughter. I cannot fathom the pain and anger that goes into losing a child, a whole person who was beloved by her family, her friends, her coworkers. I hope that I never experience this. Dr. Becky, one of the expert witnesses, who is NOT an OBGYN but an anesthesiologist and used her forceps like she was turning a gear, couldn’t even remember the mother of the deceased’s name. Elisa Martinez, Executive Director of an extremist anti-abortion organization, testified that document after document from the abortion clinic was proof that abortion later in pregnancy is dangerous, when medical associations have said over and over again that abortion is one of the safest procedures in the world. The reality is that because abortion is so stigmatized, we can expect that abortion clinics will cover all their bases for fear of being shut down and not able to provide compassionate care. What we must call out is that anti-abortion extremists manipulated this young woman’s mother, a woman of color, to justify their agenda to outlaw abortion by piece-mealing a gestational limit for abortion care. This is classic white supremacy: “divide and conquer”.
Representatives, you cannot cherry pick who you feel empathy for based on whether or not it aligns with your personal beliefs. It was repugnant to hear Representative Ezzell say, “Abortion is not healthcare for the babies”, eliminating any notion that that those who seek abortion care at any stage of pregnancy or under any circumstance are less deserving of healthcare, compassion, empathy, and love. That is the same dehumanizing rhetoric that anti-abortion extremists use to control reproductive health decisions for women, transgender men, and nonbinary people who want to control their family size.
To everyone who ooh’d and awww’d at Representative Montoya’s stories- we are so glad he and his partner made the decision that was best for them. Representative Schmedes, I am so glad you are not an OBGYN. Please stick to ears, throats, and noses. Lord knows we need to eat, breathe, and hear. Representative Dow, when you shared that you miscarried, I am so glad you had a provider who helped you in your time of need because I do not wish my experience on even my worst enemy, but that does not invalidate my experience. You may not have heard my story before but I’ve told this story in committee and in the media the last four years. Right here in New Mexico, at nonprofit and private hospitals, and at Indian Health Service hospitals, pregnant people are being denied care and even information about trustworthy sources where patients can seek medically sound, compassionate healthcare, leaving patients all over this state in precarious situations. Don’t believe me? Talk to the Indigenous women who run the Indigenous Women Rising Abortion Fund and hear these stories from patients they serve. HB 608 is a gross mischaracterization of what abortion care really is and further stigmatizes the people who need abortions. Let us be absolutely, crystal clear: we cannot possibly begin to understand every single circumstance that pregnant people face when they’re making a decision about pregnancy; legislation with the intent to inhibit medical services framed as protecting women is despicable. If we truly cared about women’s health, why are we not pressuring hospitals to take extra care to listen to their Black patients about medical needs? Black women have the highest maternal mortality rate than any group in the country. Why are we not fully funding school-based health centers that will help entire families get the affordable, preventive care they need to be ready to learn and work? Why are communities of color fighting so hard to have a Medicaid buy-in program or fighting for a higher minimum wage that we can raise our families on? I’m not sure if legislators are willing to have real conversations about sex, consent, biology, and social constructs around gender and sexuality.
But we are.
Abortion is healthcare. Abortion. Is. Healthcare.
And one more time: ABORTION IS HEALTHCARE.
Do you want to help us protect abortion access for every New Mexican? Send an email to you State Senator by clicking here!