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Our Autonomy on the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

At a time when our body sovereignty is threatened at so many intersections because of attacks at the federal level, it is more important than ever to protect what we have. As New Mexicans we welcome others to our homes and to our communities- we will continue to be a place where patients know they can receive compassionate and medically sound reproductive healthcare, including abortion. No person should be denied access to healthcare just because of the kind of healthcare they need. No doctor should be punished for providing healthcare patients want and need. That’s why we’re calling for the passage of the Keep Abortion Safe & Legal bill, to ensure that families across New Mexico have access to the healthcare we need to live our best lives.

As the anniversary of Roe v. Wade nears, we are taking time to mourn and remember that quality reproductive health was not always afforded to low-income families and communities of color. “Full-blooded” Indigenous women, immigrant women, Black women, and disabled women were among those targeted for forced sterilization. The federal government, through Indian Health Services (IHS), has admitted to forcibly sterilizing Indigenous women to control fertility and the birth rates of Native communities to “keep numbers down.” The government took these heinous actions as the blood quantum became the institutionalized qualifier for access to guaranteed services like housing and healthcare. Immigrant women were forcibly sterilized at Los Angeles County Hospital. Black and disabled women were experimented on without their consent and without anesthesia by the doctor who is hailed as the Father of Gynecology, Dr. J. Marion Sims. Rewire reported on malicious attempts to control the fertility of those living in cycles of addiction by paying these people $300 to get sterilized.

Our ongoing efforts to advance reproductive autonomy and justice for all  must acknowledge the painful history of non-white, differently able-bodied women not being able to make our own decisions about whether or not to continue a pregnancy, to expand our family, or keep our family size the same. These cruel examples of controlling fertility have their roots in the same anti-abortion rhetoric being used today. Often, these decisions, in many ways, are already made for us. But over 70% of rural New Mexicans agree- we trust each other to make our own decisions for our bodies; only we know what’s best for us when we have true access to all our options, including the resources and information we need to make these personal and intimate decisions without coercion.

As many states are chipping away at women’s health across the country, from abortion to insurance coverage for birth control to a scarcity in providers, we have an opportunity and indeed, a responsibility, to protect our healthcare, to protect each other, by any means possible. We acknowledge that Roe has not been enough to ensure access to abortions for all those who’ve needed it, especially people with low incomes, people who the government withholds options and resources from, especially people of color and Indigenous people. Reproductive coercion is not history; it’s happening today. However, Roe is a critical safety net for people across New Mexico, and across the United States. We must work to protect and expand the promises and protections of the Roe decision.

This year, in New Mexico, we have an important chance to affirm the importance of abortion access by keeping abortion safe and legal. I commit to doing all I can to protect the sovereignty and autonomy of my body and those of my community, and we demand that the state of New Mexico does the same for the people who live here. As an Apache and Pueblo parent with ancestral ties to this land, whose ancestors have been here since time immemorial and paid with their lives to protect our resources and our cultures, I am here to ensure that as we build power, we do it with love for our communities, our families, and ourselves.

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