Opinion, Special Projects / Topics

Ballot box holds fate of my reproductive rights

Subtle signs, chalk drawings and social media posts bringing up the subject of women’s bodily autonomy follow students throughout their daily lives. As the Nov. 8 midterm election comes closer, the realization that voters in New Mexico could possibly lose access to abortions grows among young adults, including myself. 

I am aware of the political debate that women’s rights have become, and more importantly, how non-debatable the topic should really be. I believe that any decision regarding a female’s body is for each individual female to decide. Under any circumstance, a woman deserves the right to choose the fate of her own reproductive health regardless of any laws that may stand in the way.

Messages supporting reproductive rights drawn out in chalk by members of Students for Reproductive Rights appear on a walkway near the Corbett Center Student Union. (Photo by April Borjon/Kokopelli)

The June U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade gave each state the opportunity to criminalize those seeking abortion care. According to the Pew Research Center, 57% of Americans disapprove of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that has led to state-level abortion bans across the country. The upcoming election will allow voters to determine the future of women’s reproductive health resources by selecting which candidates will hold 12 executive state offices in New Mexico.

Despite at least 13 states banning abortions, New Mexico does not have major restrictions and continues to be a safe haven for women from neighboring conservative states, at least for now.

Since I moved to Las Cruces in August, the topic of abortion has become eye-opening and heart-wrenching all at once. As a native El Pasoan, the 40-minute drive home has become part of my weekly routine, and the difference between the two states’ political concerns is easily noticeable.

The Las Cruces Women’s Health Organization and other available abortion clinics seem to mock the closed Planned Parenthoods throughout El Paso. A feeling of shame overcomes me as I remember that my Texas roots are drowning in Republican ideologies.

The debate regarding women’s rights has become more than just an abstract political disagreement within our government; it’s now personal.

An anti-abortion activist holds a sign while protesting in front of the Corbett Center Student Union Oct. 17, 2022. Reproductive rights are among voters’ top concerns heading into the Nov. 8 midterm elections. (Photo courtesy of Madeline Rodriguez)

Like every other female student at NMSU, I am frequently reminded of my reproductive rights and how easily they can be taken away. The biggest reminder was in the middle of a crowd outside the Corbett Center Student Union.

Holding a Bible in one hand and a condescending sign in the other, a male demonstrator on campus ranted about who he believed would go to hell: Muslims, homosexuals, atheists and “baby murderers” … among others.

I watched the demonstration from a distance. Eventually, students began to engage each other in their own abortion debates. Members of Students for Reproductive Rights argued their opinions, while supporters of Students for Life searched for polite ways to defend the term “baby murderer.”

Although I was standing in the middle of campus, I felt like I was standing in the middle of a national controversy. How can one university have two groups that are so completely against each other? According to Inside Higher Education, Students for Reproductive Rights is an organization at NMSU that provides students with reproductive health information and resources. Meanwhile, Students for Life is a program “dedicated to ending abortions” by offering support to women with unwanted pregnancies.

“As the election comes closer, the ballot boxes set up across campus continue to catch my eye. Something that people walk past and ignore every day holds the fate of my reproductive rights.”

As a first-time voter, I think it’s extremely important to know which candidates will defend my reproductive rights. Who will advocate for the millions of women seeking abortion care throughout the country? Who will let me choose the fate of my own pregnancy in New Mexico? Who will be the next governor, and will that person value my life more than an unborn baby?

In this midterm election, Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham will defend her seat against Republican challenger, Mark Ronchetti.

If elected, Ronchetti proposes banning “late-term” abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy except in cases of rape, incest and maternal death risks.

In order to stop women from receiving critical reproductive health care, “late-term abortion” is a political concept disguised as medical terminology. According to the CDC, 92.7% of abortions in 2019 were performed before 13 weeks gestation. Out of 629,854 women who received an abortion in 2019, approximately 40,000, or just over 6%, received an abortion between 14–20 weeks gestation. S0-called “late-term” abortions are actually exceedingly rare, but having access to such a procedure is no less important.

Most females don’t experience pregnancy symptoms until four weeks, and two out of every three young women won’t even realize they’re pregnant until they reach seven weeks, according to Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health.

If Ronchetti were to ban abortions after 15 weeks, it would leave females with only a few weeks to make a decision that will last a lifetime, and it would deprive women of critical health care needs that may not arise during the first 15 weeks of gestation. 

On the other hand, Lujan Grisham has protected medical abortion providers and patients in signing an executive order that shields New Mexico from other states’ abortion laws. Weeks later, she publicly defended reproductive rights at an Albuquerque news conference in June.

“As long as I’m governor, everyone in the state of New Mexico will be protected,” Lujan Grisham said. “Out-of-state residents seeking access will be protected, providers will be protected, and abortion is and will continue to be legal, safe and accessible.”

As the election comes closer, the ballot boxes set up across campus continue to catch my eye. Something that people walk past and ignore every day holds the fate of my reproductive rights.

The women’s bodily autonomy versus fetal autonomy debate may never end, but the solution can begin with one simple act: voting.

The last day for early voting is Nov. 5, and locations and hours of operations can be found at NMVote.org.

All voters are encouraged to consult votesmart.org in order to research candidates’ biographies, voting records, policy positions, ratings, speeches and funding. Votesmart.org is a nonpartisan organization. Its stated mission is “to provide free, factual, unbiased information on candidates and elected officials to all Americans.”

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to New Mexico State University, the NMSU Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Kokopelli, or any other organization, committee, group or individual.

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