Texas abortion laws drive women to New Mexico clinics

Nearly 20 percent of the 4,500 abortions performed in New Mexico in 2014 involved women from out of state.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
President and CEO of Whole Women's Health Amy Hagstrom Miller (l.), Center for Reproductive Rights senior counsel Stephanie Toti (c.) and President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights Nancy Northup (r.) address reporters on the steps of the US Supreme Court after the court took up a major abortion case focusing on whether a Texas law that imposes strict regulations on abortion doctors and clinic buildings interferes with the constitutional right of a woman to end her pregnancy in Washington, March 2.

Fewer residents are getting abortions in New Mexico, yet the number of abortions in the state has increased in recent years.

Driven by the restrictions placed on abortion clinics, Texas women are flocking to New Mexico to access the procedure, according to a state Department of Health data. Nearly 20 percent of the 4,500 abortions performed in New Mexico in 2014 involved women from out of state.

The reports comes amid heated national debate surrounding the fate of abortion clinics in the country, and is likely to fuel the ongoing dispute about the strict Texas anti-abortion law that is currently before the US Supreme Court.

Between 2011 and 2015, Texas, Arizona, and Oklahoma have adopted 10 or more abortion restrictions. As the Christian Science Monitor reported, an unprecedented 288 abortion restrictions have been passed at the state level since 2010, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit group that tracks reproductive health issues.

The passage of Texas's controversial House Bill 2 into law in 2014 resulted in the closure of at least half of the state's 41 abortion clinics. The law requires doctors at abortion clinics to secure admitting privileges at a local hospital, and also mandates abortion clinics to comply with the standards of an ambulatory surgical center (ASC).

Shortly after HB2 became law, one Texas-based abortion clinic relocated to Las Cruces, N.M. New Mexico hasn’t passed an abortion law in 16 years. The state is one of seven that allows so-called late-term abortions, though they aren’t common, state data show. Local residents had only four abortions at 28 weeks or later in 2014, and the number dropped to two last year, according to the New Mexico Department of Health.

The Christian Science Monitor reports this week that in Texas, abortion clinics performed 9,000 fewer abortions in the first full year after the state enacted tough new regulations on abortion clinics, providing some of the first hard data in what the Supreme Court has called the state’s “controlled experiment” in tightening abortion access for American women.

The plunging number of Texas abortions comes amid a notable drop in abortions around the US.

In general, states with open access to abortion are seeing declines similar to states with laws curtailing clinic access. But while the Associated Press found that abortions decreased by 12 percent across the US since 2010, the Texas rate dropped by 30 percent in the same span.

The only other state to come close to Texas's sharp drop was North Carolina, with a 24 percent decline over that time.

Elisa Martinez, the executive director of the New Mexico Alliance for Life, and a critic of the New Mexico abortion laws said the state’s failure to pass a law similar to Texas "leaves women vulnerable to the lack of safety and regulation of these clinics."

Critics of the abortion laws argue that that the Texas measures are a pretext to prevent future abortions by driving clinics out of business. They add that abortions performed in non-ASC clinics are exceedingly safe, and substantially safer than childbirth, as the Monitor previously reported

Abortion advocate Pamelya Herndon, executive director of the Southwest Women's Law Center in Albuquerque, says that the measures are not about health and instead limit a woman's ability to access abortions.

"That's the new terminology that some states are picking up and some legislators I think in our state are trying to pick up to make it appear that there is some great concern (about women who have abortions)," Ms. Herndon said. "It's just another way to prevent the reproductive health care of women."

This report contains materials from the Associated Press. 

In advance of this month's Supreme Court hearing, the Monitor examined abortion in Texas in a three-part series looking at those most affected by the Texas law, the 'pro-life' answer to abortion clinics, and how hard it is to get an abortion in the state.

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