Affordable and accessible healthcare can make all the difference when it comes to the physical and economic well-being of women. Many of the proposed changes in healthcare threaten to reduce both access and affordability. This is a particular concern for women in the southwestern United States, where the rural nature, high poverty levels, and shortage of medical professionals in the region already limit options. We must make sure that new federal, state and local health care laws and policies keep working for women ― and that politicians cease their relentless attacks on reproductive care.
Reproductive rights are the rights of individuals to decide whether to reproduce and have reproductive health. This may include an individual’s right to plan a family, terminate a pregnancy, use contraceptives, learn about sex education in public schools, have control over and decide freely on matters related to their sexuality, and gain access to reproductive health services.
Reproductive freedom means every woman is free to decide whether and when to have children. It means that woman have access to the best reproductive healthcare available; where every woman can exercise her choices without coercion or discrimination.
Abortion is a key part of women’s liberty, equality, and economic security. But politicians keep passing laws with the goal of making it more difficult ― if not impossible ― for women to get an abortion. As of 2018, New Mexico, does not have any of the major types of abortion restrictions—such as waiting periods, mandated parental involvement or limitations on publicly funded abortions—often found in other states. Vigilance is needed to ensure that access to abortion and reproductive care are not hindered in New Mexico.
45 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that every woman has a constitutional right to an abortion. Today, our reproductive rights are at risk.
A few years ago, the Southwest Women’s Law Center (SWLC) worked with a coalition of organizations to defeat a harmful and deceptive ballot measure that would have banned access to a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion. The SWLC is proud to have been a part of this coalition and its of its efforts to defeat this first-of-its kind in the nation municipal ballot measure to limit women’s rights to reproductive health care. This win is a testimony to the strength of local organizations that have been building a strong movement for justice in New Mexico for many years. The SWLC is pleased to have been a part of a campaign that provided accurate information and acknowledged the complexity of decision-making around abortion. Our efforts remind voters that these decisions should be in the hands of women in consultation with their family, their doctor and their faith.
As we celebrate our victory, we must be ever vigilant to ensure that our communities can continue to protect the values expressed and reproductive rights. Each year, anti-abortion forces introduce legislation designed to eliminate access to safe and legal abortions. The SWLC and its partners are committed to mobilizing the coalition and resources we have built to increase access to the rights, resources and recognition that women and families need to thrive.
SWLC believes that all young people in New Mexico need to receive age-appropriate, medically accurate, comprehensive sexuality education and access to reproductive health services. As our state struggles to cope with high rates of teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and diseases, and domestic violence and sexual assault, it is imperative that New Mexico’s youth receive the information and resources they need to make healthy life decisions.
The Southwest Women’s Law Center is committed to ensuring the women have access to comprehensive family planning services and information. Being able to get and use birth control is vital for women’s health and ability to plan and control their lives.
One of SWLC’s earliest initiatives was to partner with local and national organizations to increase access to emergency contraception (EC), a form of back-up birth control that is effective at preventing pregnancy up to 72 hours after intercourse. EC is a critically important form of contraception that can help women prevent unintended pregnancies when they are sexually assaulted, when their birth control fails, or when birth control was not used. Back in 2007, SWLC played a critical leadership role in advocating for and participating in a major study of EC by the New Mexico Health Policy Commission. For a copy of the full report and recommendations by the New Mexico Health Policy Commission regarding Emergency Contraception, click here. Since then, SWLC has worked hard to ensure that EC is available to low-income women through the State’s Medicaid program and family planning programs.
Emergency contraception is not an abortion pill. Emergency contraception does not interrupt or harm an existing pregnancy. Emergency contraception is safe and effective and an important form of birth control. SWLC will continue to advocate for access to EC as it works with its national and local partners to develop new strategies to help ensure that all women who need and seek family planning services are able to access and obtain regular forms of birth control on an ongoing basis.
As part of its efforts to ensure that all women, regardless of race, income, geographic location or immigration status, have access to family planning services, SWLC launched an effort to increase eligibility and utilization of a special Medicaid program know as the “Family Planning Waiver”. SWLC’s work focuses on the complex regulatory issues that confront the state health care providers and patients in implementing and maximizing participation in this important public program. SWLC anticipates continuing its work to expand New Mexico’s Family Planning Waiver and will seek opportunities to identify and eliminate barriers facing women seeking healthcare services under government benefits programs.
What is the Medicaid family planning waiver?
Medicaid allows states to waive the regular Medicaid income requirements so that women who do not qualify for full Medicaid benefits still qualify for family planning services. New Mexico’s waiver program covers women up to 185% of the federal poverty level ($32,560 for a family of three).
Providing family planning to women is sound fiscal policy for the state of New Mexico.
For every $1 New Mexico invests in family planning services, the U.S. government matches $9. For every $1 spent to avoid unintended pregnancies, the government saves $4 on Medicaid-funded pregnancy related care.
The need for family planning benefits is great.
Approximately 140,000 New Mexican women of reproductive age are in need of publicly funded family planning services. Nearly one-third of reproductive age women in New Mexico are uninsured. While other states with family planning waivers serve more than 70% of eligible women, New Mexico’s waiver program serves less than 20% of eligible women.
How can New Mexico meet this need and maximize the federal match for family planning?
The low number of eligible women benefiting from the family planning waiver is a community problem that we must address together. Steps include:
Will Medicaid Expansion Cover Family Planning and Maternity Care Benefits?
Yes! On January 1, 2014, New Mexico will be expanding full coverage Medicaid to adults ages 19-64 who make less than 138% of the federal poverty level (about $16,000 for an individual and about $32,500 for a family of four). This expanded Medicaid coverage will include family planning services and maternity care benefits. The Southwest Women’s Law Center continues to advocate that the state of New Mexico continue its current, higher levels of coverage for family planning and maternity care Medicaid Coverage.