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Despair, celebration and rallying cries: reactions to the end of Roe

Crowds of supporters of abortion rights gathered in Tiguex Park in Albuquerque following the June 24 Supreme Court ruling reversing Roe v Wade
Alice Fordham
Crowds of supporters of abortion rights gathered in Tiguex Park in Albuquerque following the June 24 Supreme Court ruling reversing Roe v Wade

On Friday evening, crowds of people gathered in Tiguex Park in Albuquerque to protest the Supreme Court's decision that overturned Roe v Wade and eliminated the constitutional right to an abortion.

"I think that this is the saddest day in American history that I've seen in a really long time," said Shane Hall, a student.

Abortion is still legal in New Mexico, but as surrounding states including Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona and Utah seem set to ban the procedure, demonstrator Adriana Lerma said she wanted to show support and solidarity.

"It's just like, an intense feeling of hopelessness, but then also like, well, what now," she said. "What can I do today to try and do something?"

The news was not unexpected. The nine-judge body has shifted significantly conservative in recent years, and a leaked draft of the ruling last month foreshadowed what was to come.

But for State Senator Linda Lopez, it still hit hard.

"Although we already knew through the leak, it is finally here today. And the sadness, the anger is very prevalent," she told KUNM.

Last year, Lopez was the lead sponsor of a bill that repealed a 1969 New Mexican law prohibiting abortion. She did that because the law was not enforceable while Roe v Wade stood, but it could have come back into force after Roe was struck down.

"We were able to get the legislation," she said. "And our Governor signed the bill. So New Mexico is good." But she added that when she began her career in politics, she never imagined such measures would be necessary.

Many advocates for reproductive rights expressed sadness in a press conference organized by the New Mexican group Bold Futures.

"This is a monumental moment," said Krystal Curley from the Indigenous Lifeways collective. "This fight, that the generations before us have continued, that has paved the way for us to have this access, has now been stopped."

Indigenous people seeking abortions already often have to travel for that access. Indian Health Service hospitals provide abortion care only in very limited circumstances, restricted by the Hyde Amendment of 1976 which prevents federal funds being used for most abortions.

"Our choices have always been very limited," said Curley. And they could become more limited with an influx of patients expected to start coming to New Mexico and Colorado, which passed legislation earlier this year protecting the right to an abortion.

At the same press conference Farinaz Khan, an abortion provider in Albuquerque, said, “let me be perfectly clear. Our patients are going to be deeply harmed by this decision.”

Some people are celebrating, seeing the news as the victorious culmination of years of organizing.

"Roe v Wade has really placed an unfair expectation on women to have to alter, suppress and destroy the normal healthy functions of her natural body in order to be successful," said Mark Cavaliere, the Executive Director of the Southwest Coalition for Life.

And the Catholic Archbishop of Santa Fe, John C. Wester, said in a statement that the ruling, "affirms our belief that life is precious, valuable, and should be protected."

Nationwide, though, six in ten Americans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to a Pew poll earlier this month.

Some providers even think the pressure on the remaining clinics and facilities might mean more people end up having abortions.

"I have a very deep concern that month after month and in a frightening way, perhaps year after year, we are compressing the ability of people to get basic reproductive health care to prevent pregnancies in the first place," said CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains Adrienne Mansanares in an interview with KUNM earlier this year.

"And we may see an increase in abortion care because of it."

However, she added that since the presidency of Donald Trump, who allied himself with religious conservatives, Planned Parenthood has been planning for this day. That has included investing in telehealth and increasing their physical footprint in states like Colorado and New Mexico.

With some legal experts questioning whether the Supreme Court is likely to try to roll back other rights including same-sex marriage and even contraception, activists pleaded for continuing political action.

"This is destabilizing our democracy," said Corinne Sanchez, head of Tewa Women United, a group led by Native women. "We all need to step forward and raise our voices, because this is intrinsically connected to accessing other services and other things that are our constitutional right."

Jeanette DeDios contributed research to this report

This coverage was made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and KUNM listeners.

Alice Fordham joined the news team in 2022 after a career as an international correspondent, reporting for NPR from the Middle East and later Latin America and Europe. She also worked as a podcast producer for The Economist among other outlets, and tries to meld a love of sound and storytelling with solid reporting on the community. She grew up in the U.K. and has a small jar of Marmite in her kitchen for emergencies.
Bryce Dix is our local host for NPR's Morning Edition.