Gov's plan for reproductive health clinic finds critics
Last updated 9/27/2022 at 4:35pm
Taxpayers didn't waste any time telling Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham how they felt about her plan to spend $10 million to build a clinic near the Texas border in Las Cruces that would provide abortion services and other reproductive health care.
Within hours of announcing she was designating the funding from her capital outlay money in the upcoming legislative session, the governor started to receive emails from New Mexicans who were incensed by the decision, according to documents obtained under a public records request.
Some of the initial emails were laced with insults.
"I know you don't believe it, and that's OK, but you'll stand before God one day and be judged for your satanic beliefs against humanity and the slaughter of innocent children," wrote Carl Parker of Albuquerque, the first person to send the governor an email about the proposed clinic. "True, born again believers will be able to watch you get thrown in the lake of fire forever. I can hardly wait."
A few hours later, another Albuquerque resident, Carol Meyers, also invoked Christianity, calling the allocation an "offense to God."
"I will do everything I can to be sure Mark Ronchetti becomes New Mexico's next governor!" she wrote, referring to Lujan Grisham's Republican challenger in the Nov. 8 general election.
The New Mexican filed a public records request Sept. 6 for all communication the governor received about the proposed clinic since Aug. 31, when she signed an executive order designating the funds for the project. The request turned up 57 emails and other records. Of the 57, 36 expressed opposition and 19 indicated support. The rest didn't take an explicit position on the issue.
Maddy Hayden, a spokeswoman for Lujan Grisham, didn't specifically answer whether the governor read the emails but said Lujan Grisham appreciates hearing from all New Mexicans about the issues that impact their lives.
Hayden noted recent polling by the Albuquerque Journal showed many New Mexicans support abortion rights. The poll, conducted in August, found 35 percent of New Mexicans think abortion should always be legal while 22 percent think it should be legal "with some limitations."
"As neighboring states pass extremist abortion bans that limit women's healthcare, New Mexico's reproductive health care providers are seeing a strain on our system," Hayden wrote in an email. "The governor committed to funding this facility after hearing from medical providers and community members that there is a critical need for more access to women's healthcare in the Las Cruces area. This includes abortion care, but also routine gynecological services like exams, birth control access, and screenings."
The decision to fund a clinic in Doña Ana County "is a necessary piece of the healthcare delivery system," resulting in healthier women in the southwestern part of the state, Hayden wrote.
Abortion has turned into a top issue in the fiercely competitive governor's race since the U.S. Supreme Court in late June overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that established a constitutional right to abortion.
Lujan Grisham, a staunch abortion rights supporter, has used the issue as a rallying point — and fundraising mechanism — among her supporters. She has also used the issue as ammunition against Ronchetti, saying a woman's right to choose is at stake in November.
Ronchetti, who has described himself as strongly pro-life, has tried to take a more moderate approach in recent weeks. After the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Ronchetti said he is personally pro-life but would seek a middle ground with the Legislature "that ends the practice of late-term and partial-birth abortion."
He has also said he believes permitting abortion up to 15 weeks and in cases involving rape, incest and when a mother's life is at risk is a "very reasonable position" most New Mexicans would support regardless of party affiliation.
Ronchetti recently proposed a state constitutional amendment to allow voters to directly decide on abortion rights in New Mexico, drawing criticism from opponents who say women already have the right to decide in a state with few restrictions on the medical procedure.
Emails sent to the governor on the issue of a taxpayer-funded clinic that would provide abortion services show division on the issue, though most of the communication expressed opposition or displeasure.
"I support a women's choice and hope for some reasonable laws. However I DO NOT support you using our tax dollars to fund abortions," Elizabeth Grinnell of Las Cruces wrote. "WRONG WRONG WRONG."
While a majority of people who emailed the governor about the proposed clinic voiced disapproval, others expressed support, including several from out of state and even Canada.
"Thank you for having the guts to establish a reproductive clinic," Pauline James of Casa Grande, Ariz., wrote. "Every woman deserves health care, no matter where. I would like to donate and would be willing to help any woman from Arizona get to the facility."
Patricia Homison, a 73-year-old from New York, also thanked the governor for "supporting the Texas border abortion clinic" and demonstrably supporting women's rights.
"Bless your bravery and decency. We need you in this world!" she wrote.
Two people who wrote to the governor called her a "hero."
"I just wanted to say thank you for fighting for the rights of women of NM and Texas by committing to build an abortion clinic near the border," Dana Oddo of Illinois wrote. "As they say, not all heroes wear capes, and you, Ma'am, are a hero."
Kathleen Sobba, who lives in the Canadian province of Manitoba, said there are "many" like her who appreciate the governor's stance.
"Hopefully, women who need the use of such facilities can do so without retribution from the idiots who believe they have a right to tell a women what to do with an unwanted pregnancy," she wrote.
"It continues to surprise me that other women allow men to tell us what to do with our bodies," Sobba added.