Texas Women Increasingly Cross the Border Into New Mexico for Abortions
Image by Monica Fuentes
It's been three years since the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 2, the controversial law that shuttered more than half the abortion clinics in the state, leaving thousands of women — particularly those living in more remote areas like West Texas and South Texas — without easy access to an abortion provider.
While some Texas women have struggled to get access to clinics in the state since HB2 was partially implemented, others have apparently been crossing state lines to obtain abortions in New Mexico.
According to New Mexico Department of Health data, in 2014, the most recent year for which data are available, about 20 percent of about 4,500 women who got abortions in New Mexico came from out of state, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
This makes sense for a lot of reasons. For one thing, New Mexico is one of the few states that haven't gotten on the bandwagon about creating state-level abortion laws that limit women's access to clinics in the state. In fact, New Mexico hasn't passed an abortion law in 16 years. It is one of the states with the fewest abortion restrictions in the country, and is one of seven states that allow abortions at any point in a pregnancy, the Albuquerque Journal reports.
In short, New Mexico is wide open on the abortion issue, especially when compared to the Texas approach. The effects of HB2, one of the most stringent anti-abortion laws in the country, have been felt by Texas women since the law was allowed to mostly go into effect in late 2013.
Meanwhile, Texas is decidedly not wide open. The Texas Policy Evaluation Project at University of Texas, a group of researchers who have been examining the on-the-ground effects of laws passed by the Texas Legislature in 2011 and 2013 that curtailed reproductive rights, have been publishing their findings steadily for months. For the most part, things have turned out exactly as one would expect: It's gotten more difficult to get an abortion in Texas, especially if you are an impoverished women who lives in South Texas or West Texas or some other remote part of the state where the nearest clinic is more than 100 miles away, as we've previously reported.
In fact, after HB2 went into action, one Texas clinic simply picked up and moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico, just over the state line.
When the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, at the beginning of March, the question of having to cross state lines came up during oral arguments. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked some pointed questions about the implications of women being forced to travel to New Mexico, or any other state, to obtain an abortion because of Texas laws. That may not seem like a big deal, but Ginsburg was getting at the question of whether HB2 places an "undue burden" on Texas women,
She started out by asking how many women live more than 100 miles away from a clinic.
When Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller replied that about 25 percent of Texas women are at least that far from a clinic, but said they couldn't be sure since there was a clinic just over the state line in Santa Teresa, New Mexico.
Ginsburg observed that this was an "odd" approach since New Mexico definitely doesn't have the same standards that Texas is trying to put in place, according to Slate. “So if your argument is right, then New Mexico is not an available way out for Texas, because Texas says: To protect our women, we need these things. But send them off to New Mexico, and that’s perfectly all right," she said. "Well, if that’s all right for the women in the El Paso area, why isn’t it right for the rest of the women in Texas?”