A group of 200 or so people on Tuesday braced against yet another brutally windy Santa Fe spring day to protest what now appears to be a foregone conclusion: the end of federal protections for abortions.
The day before, Politico obtained and published a leaked copy of US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s draft, majority opinion in a Mississippi abortion-rights case that shook the world by sending up a clear signal that the conservative-dominated high court is ready to overturn the landmark, 1973 decision in Roe vs. Wade.
Longtime abortion rights advocates in the New Mexico capital weren’t surprised.
“We are going to have to definitely do this again and again and again,” Sheila Lewis told a crowd gathered Tuesday evening outside Santa Fe’s federal courthouse.
Lewis, a well-known local attorney and organizer with Santa Fe’s chapter of the National Organization for Women, said she’s been fighting for abortion rights since the 1970s. “We will not quit until this is codified into law that no one will be able to shake,” Lewis told the assemblage.
Local Democratic politicians were among those who turned up in a mix of blowing dust and wildfire smoke to speak out against the direction the Supreme Court appears headed.
“This is an attack on all of our rights. This is a moment in time that we knew, unfortunately and sadly, this was coming,” state Rep. Tara Lujan, D-Santa Fe, said. “I’m proud to stand today with you all here in New Mexico, where we are protecting those rights, where we will continue to protect those rights.”
During the 2021 legislative session, Democrats won a long-sought victory in the fight for abortion rights when they repealed a 1969 law outlawing the women’s health care practice. The court’s ruling in Roe made the measure moot four years later, but the state’s majority party has long warned that changing federal winds could make it matter again.
If Alito’s leaked draft—or even just its effect—is a true indicator, the Democrats were right.
Either way, New Mexico’s recent efforts to shore up a woman’s right to an abortion stands in contrast to those in neighboring states, including Texas.
When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, signed a bill banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy last year—and putting those who facilitate an abortion at risk of civil litigation—protests erupted around the country, including in Santa Fe.
Alito’s leaked draft brought condemnation from Democratic leaders
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham wrote in a statement Tuesday morning: “
I am outraged and horrified. While many of us have predicted—and feared—this moment, nothing prepares you for the shock. The ramifications of this decision would be swift and devastating for women across the country as we grapple with this unconscionable evisceration of the right to a safe and legal abortion.”
In a Tuesday morning statement, US Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM, wrote, “I want to be clear: This decision is not yet final. Reproductive rights, as established by Roe, remain the law of the land in America. But Congress cannot wait on the sidelines until it’s too late. The Senate must eliminate the filibuster immediately to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act and other vital pieces of legislation.”
Santa Fe City Councilor Signe Lindell told demonstrators on Tuesday that she had to dig deep into her closet to find her old, pink American Civil Liberties Union t-shirt, emblazoned with, “My body is not public property.”
“We marched years and decades ago, and we’ll march again. And we’re not done. We thought we were, but we’re not,” Lindell said. “So let’s stick together, huh?” Lindell added that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, other Supreme Court decisions, such as those recognizing the right of marriage equality, would be next.
Lindell noted that the crowd skewed older than she expected. “You know some young people, get them out here,” she said.
“Where are the young people?” a voice from the crowd asked.
Emily Christner, 28, turned up for the protest.
“These generations before us have done so much work, it’s time for us to step up,” Christner tells SFR.
Christner is familiar with the frailty of reproductive rights. She moved to Santa Fe from Texas in September, the same month the abortion ban went into effect. She says it was a coincidence.
After that, “things started to get kinda dark,” Christner says, adding, “It was nice to live in a state where I felt represented.”
Christner explains that her sister, who was considering moving to Texas from Colorado, decided to move to Albuquerque instead as a consequence of Abbott’s abortion ban.
She says friends and acquaintances in Texas are welcome to stay with her in New Mexico if they need reproductive health care.