In New Mexico, heartbreak, hurt and fear over Roe v. Wade decision

·5 min read

Jun. 25—"Horrendous," "wrong" and "scary" were words people in Santa Fe used to describe the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn abortions rights Friday.

And for many, that was just the beginning.

The gravity of the decision hit home to those who have long supported abortion rights, yet also to those born decades after the landmark Roe v. Wade decision of 1973. And for many — though not all — the reverberations were profound.

Charlotte Taft, a 71-year-old Glorieta woman who heads the Abortion Care Network — a nonprofit that supports independent abortion providers and challenges the stigmatization of abortion — said the ruling is a grave setback for women, particularly those in poverty.

"This is going to be a very dark time for the poorest women with the fewest resources," she said. "Women who have the means and ability to travel will still be able to make choices."

Taft said she clearly recalls when the Supreme Court announced its ruling protecting abortion rights 50 years ago.

"I remember being 22 years old standing on a ladder, changing a lightbulb when the world flipped on its axis as I heard a commentator talking about Roe v. Wade," she said.

"Part of what it meant was not only about abortion and pregnancy and choices," she added. "It was, it is possible that at some date women might actually be considered full human beings."

Now, Taft said, the Supreme Court seems to sending women the opposite message.

"The court is very clearing saying,'OK ladies, that's enough out of you. We're sending you back where you belong,' " she said. "The court is showing it has become a purely political tool."

The impact also was felt by the young.

"I have a lot to say about it," said 16-year-old Jasmin Gonzales. "I think it's really wrong. It's just putting control over women's bodies, and that's all they want over us.

"If I got pregnant right now and I couldn't get an abortion, I'd be so screwed," she added. "For me, it's so scary."

Annamarie Garcia, also 16, echoed Gonzales' sentiments. She said there are many factors young people must consider when it comes to unwanted pregnancies, including the difficulty of simply surviving in today's world.

Georgina Solano — a 44-year-old architect who moved to the United States from El Salvador in 2015 as part of a professional exchange program — said the ruling made her sad because of what it says about the status of women in this country.

"Women in my country, especially poor women, die because they don't have the right to abortion," she said, adding that even women who seek medical care after suffering spontaneous miscarriages sometimes have police called on them by hospital workers who suspect them of attempting to end a pregnancy.

"They can end up in jail for seven years without any justice at all," Solano said.

Women in some Latin American countries look to the United States as an ideal place to be in terms of civil rights, Solano said, "but it looks to me like there is more rights for guns than for women. I don't understand how this happened."

But not everyone disagreed with the ruling.

Hannah Casady, a 26-year-old mother of four, said she agreed with the Supreme Court's 6-3 decision, despite the fact her eldest child was a "rape baby" she carried to term and gave up for adoption when she was 18 years old.

"I'm 100 percent in support of [the ruling]," said Casady, who was born and raised in Santa Fe and now lives in Española.

Both sides of the issue brought out deep emotions Friday. Two women who declined to be identified said they were shocked.

"I'm quite stunned to be thinking that I live in America and that this could possibly have happened in my lifetime," said a 70-year-old virtual artist visiting with a friend at DeVargas Center.

"I'm sickened by it," she added. "It makes me feel despair about the whole fate of our country."

"In the culture of today, I feel threatened," said a 73-year-old woman loading her groceries into her car at a nearby grocery store. "This is just horrendous, a step backwards for everyone. It's going to impact everything, and I think we should fight it and fight it and fight it."

As New Mexico residents mulled the implications of the ruling, and political leaders rushed to issue statements and news releases making their positions known, reproductive rights advocates from around the state and region met virtually to commiserate and discuss the future of abortion in New Mexico.

Abortion is still legal in New Mexico, thanks in part to a 2021 bill that repealed a 1969 law banning the practice. But while abortions by medication are accessible in most parts of the state, surgical abortion procedures are currently only available in Bernalillo County.

"And need is only going to grow as other places need access to abortion care," Bold Futures Executive Director Charlene Bencomo said Friday.

Asked whether New Mexico providers will be able to handle an influx of abortion seekers from other states, American Civil Liberties of New Mexico reproductive rights counsel Ellie Rushforth said the answer is no.

"Today patients across the country are having appointments cancelled," she said. "No matter how many facilities there are in the states that have protected our rights, the demand will never be met because people who do not have the resources — young people, Black and Indigenous people and many, many others — will not be able to leave their state to get the care they need."

New Mexico is a rural state that already doesn't have enough access to health care in general, she said. And if the state sees an influx it will be from people who can already afford to travel to access health care.

"This is a public health crisis in the making, and it has been in the making for years," she said.

At day's end, about 100 men, women and children gathered for a somber protest outside the Roundhouse in Santa Fe.

Armed with homemade protest signs, they took turns expressing their grief, anger and sadness over the decision.

"I don't want to go back to some old white men telling us what to do!" one speaker said, drawing applause from the crowd, which dispersed after about an hour as a light rain began to fall.