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NM Representative Micaela Lara Cadena reflects on the overturning of Roe vs Wade one year later

One year after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its Dobbs vs Jackson decision and overturned Roe vs Wade, Scott Brocato spoke with New Mexico State Representative Micaela Lara Cadena about the decision, and what lies ahead for New Mexico in the fight to maintain reproductive rights in the state.

Scott Brocato:

A year ago, June 24th, the US Supreme Court handed down its Dobbs versus Jackson decision overturning Roe V Wade, returning the decision on abortion laws to the states. And you've been instrumental in helping to maintain women's rights to an abortion in the state of New Mexico. I'd like to ask first of all, when you first heard the decision come down, where were you and how did you feel?

Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena:

Unfortunately, and especially with the unprecedented leak that had come out a couple of months prior, I was not surprised to see the decision that day I was at home in Mesilla. As it happens, I've worked in abortion access and different capacities over decades, and that at that moment I was the policy director at a national organization. That work to make sure people have access to the abortions they want or need. So for days and days I'd been up refreshing the SCOTUS blogs. Just like so many were waiting to see that decision. So when it came, I remember feeling a wave of emotion and calling one of my colleagues an incredible friend and boss and...just sort of had a couple of minutes in which we worked throughout felt in our bodies. It was devastating. It was..it was a blow. It was memories and reminders of the kind of healthcare I've needed and wanted in my life, including abortion. And just thinking about all the folks who are going to be harmed by this out of touch decision.

Scott Brocato:

Well, one year later, where do you feel that we are now in New Mexico as far as the abortion rights, especially compared with much of the other nation, and especially compared to our state next door, Texas?

Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena:

Well, I'm glad to be home, but as it happens on June 24th of this year, I was in. Washington, DC, and. Took a moment by myself to walk by the Supreme Court, where some anti abortion activists were out celebrating en masse. And I just sat under a tree for a minute and thought about what it meant to be in a place where we've shown up for people no matter what and where abortion is going to remain legally protected, no matter what the courts decided. So in many ways, it's a relief to call New Mexico home. And it's also something that makes me feel incredibly proud. That New Mexicans, because of our identities over decades, have shown that we understand abortion to be health care and that we're going to make sure our doors and our hearts and our clinics remain open for those seeking care.

Scott Brocato:

Well, at the same time, according to the New Mexico Political Report, municipalities and counties in New Mexico have passed more anti abortion ordinances than other states that are considered pro abortion. So what are your thoughts on that? Do you feel pretty confident about the safeguards that are now in place in New Mexico?

Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena:

I feel absolutely confident. I am proud of the legal protections we have in place and the certainty that we've established through the legislature, but also through the New Mexico Supreme Court. These municipalities passing these ordinances, they were unconstitutional a decade ago. They were unconstitutional before New Mexico reaffirmed our abortion values, and they remain unconstitutional today. So I appreciate that these are a symbol, you might say, of their abortion sentiments, but they have no legal standing. And it won't do anything to undermine access to care in our state.

Scott Brocato:

Well, in the wake of the overturning, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham gave an executive order placing or pledging $10 million for reproductive healthcare. Clinic in Dona Ana County, which would include abortion services. What is the status? The current status on that right now?

Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena:

The clinic. This is an interesting question for me. I am really proud that our governor has come out as a champion on access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion. But those conversations and the potential for that clinic were in the works over years, and certainly before the governor paid attention to the Borderlands. There are community leaders who come from these places, who come and call Las Cruces and the Messila Valley home, who've known for years that our families need access to care, a full range of care, that we're still waiting for today from OBGYN services, from contraception to high quality midwifery care to care that's cultural reflective when they might have a pregnancy loss or another outcome. So I'm proud that with Strong Families New Mexico, Bold Futures, repro justice organizations on the ground, they've been dreaming up this clinic over years. I'm grateful that the governor decided to get some money behind it.

Scott Brocato:

And so far, no timeline?

Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena:

I know what they've done so far is make sure that community values and leadership are represented in the planning. There's certain entities that have clinics in other parts of the state that are in the room, and figuring out how they're going to work together to make sure that in a really collaborative way, we can do something meaningful to expand access to a range of pregnancy-related care in our valley.

Scott Brocato:

And finally, what lies ahead for New Mexico and you in particular in the fight to maintain reproductive rights in the state?

Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena:

(pause) I've said before that the abortion I was able to have as a young person in the city gave me a future. And midwifery, when I was pregnant again and wanted to carry that pregnancy and parent, saved my life. In our state, we are incredibly under-resourced. People of all walks of life and identities don't have access to a range of healthcare that they desperately want and need. Abortion is secure in New Mexico. It has been since we repealed the archaic decades-old ban in 2021. So since 2021, I've pleaded with my colleagues and will continue to do the same. It's time that we show up for the rest of care that people need in New Mexico. I'm really proud and grateful that we've become a place for folks from all over the country, over decades, have come and shown up in New Mexico to get the care that their states have banned. So we're going to continue to do that. We're going to continue to have abortion care for our people. And it's time that we make sure midwifery care is accessible and people can get a behavioral health appointment and people can get dental care. So I have continued to say our policies are in place. Let's make those promises real. New Mexicans showed up at the ballot. They showed up in power. They showed their abortion values, and they're also saying we've been waiting for much more. It's time to deliver.

Scott Brocato:

Representative Micaela Lara Cadena, thank you so much for joining us on KRWG Public Media.

Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena:

Thank you, Scott. Thank you.

Scott Brocato has been an award-winning radio veteran for over 35 years. He has lived and worked in Las Cruces since 2016, and you can hear him regularly during "All Things Considered" from 4 pm-7 pm on weekdays. Off the air, he is also a local actor and musician, and you can catch him rocking the bass with his band Flat Blak around Las Cruces and El Paso.
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