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VP calls NM a 'safe haven' for reproductive rights, praises Governor’s leadership

Vice President Harris vists NM
Hyunju Blemel
UNM University Communication and Marketing
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (left) and Chair of the OB-GYN Department at UNM Hospital, Eve Espey (middle), moderate a conversation with Vice President Kamala Harris on protecting reproductive health care rights at the University of New Mexico on Oct. 25, 2022.

Vice President Kamala Harris spoke before a capacity crowd at the University of New Mexico Tuesday on protecting access to reproductive rights alongside Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is running for reelection in a race where abortion access has been a key issue.

New Mexico is the latest stop for Harris, who has been traveling the country this month to speak on the topic.

The governor praised Harris for reaching out to state lawmakers, including Lujan Grisham, since the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization draft opinion leaked in May.

“Which has really helped figure out the ways in which we leverage federally qualified health centers and any number of other federal investments in the state,” Lujan Grisham told the crowd.

The Vice President came to discuss next steps on reproductive rights protections and to participate in a fundraiser before the talk as the Governor fights a competitive race for re-election. 

Harris traded praise with the governor.

“I want to recognize your leadership, and the leadership here in New Mexico,” Harris said. “This is a safe haven for the surrounding states.”

Lujan Grisham repealed a dormant abortion ban last year, and this year has signed two executive orders to expand access to abortion and safeguards for out-of-state patients and providers.

Harris said that the U.S. Justice Department’s Reproductive Rights Task Force has also been working to protect abortion providers who cross state lines to conduct the procedure where it’s legal with free counsel.

“We want to make sure those who decide to take that kind of bold action have legal protections — or at least a legal advocate — for what might be their liability,” she said.

Harris held up a U.S. map during the talk that was color-coded to show the patchwork of laws governing access to abortion post-Roe, calling it confusing and ripe for misinformation and disinformation.

“And so, part of the challenge here is not only to focus on how we can change this through the various ways — that will be about litigation but, frankly, will have to be about legislation, which means elections,” she said. “But there’s also the work we have to do right now to keep and constantly focusing and reiterating the facts.”

President Biden last week pledged to codify the right to an abortion if Democrats are able to secure the House and Senate in the midterms.

At one point, co-moderator and Chair of the OB-GYN Department at the University of New Mexico Hospital Eve Espey broadened the conversation to maternal health. Harris highlighted the significant disparities in mortality rates for Black and Indigenous people, saying they are not an issue of income or education level, but of not being taken seriously by hospital staff. Health disparities, she added, also exist for those with low incomes.

“This is why who your governor is matters,” Harris said. “I’m looking at the fact that Medicaid is only covering two months postpartum. She literally just gave birth to a human being.”

The Vice President said Lujan Grisham “answered the call” of her administration when she extended postpartum Medicaid coverage in New Mexico to one year from 60 days in April.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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