Around two dozen New Mexicans gathered in downtown Albuquerque Wednesday to praise New Mexico’s U.S. Congressional Democrats for resisting the agenda set by President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans.
Sen. Martin Heinrich, Sen. Tom Udall, Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan have been vocal members of the local opposition, having denounced Trump’s appointees, immigration policies and Congressional Republicans’ efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.
Student Alliance for Reproductive Justice, a Planned Parenthood-affiliated student group at the University of New Mexico, organized the rally to thank them for supporting progressive policies — specifically abortion rights — deeming them as champions for Planned Parenthood.
“In our current political climate, it is really important that we support our legislatures because they are the minority opinion in Congress right now,” said SARJ member Kayla Herring. “It is really important to validate the work that they are doing.”
Speakers encouraged attendees to become politically active and support Planned Parenthood Votes New Mexico, which lobbies legislators and advocates policies that protect abortion rights.
“We support Planned Parenthood,” the group yelled while taking a picture.
Marshall Martinez, the public affairs director for Planned Parenthood in New Mexico, started the rally with a speech about their organization’s efforts. He said Planned Parenthood is “proud to provide birth control and abortion for all of their patients.”
“I want to be 100 percent clear that we will not back down from any of those services either,” Martinez said. “No one will intimidate us and nobody will stop us from giving access to reproductive healthcare as folks need it.”
Martinez said one in five women will go to a Planned Parenthood in their lifetime, adding that easy access to reproductive healthcare is critical to New Mexicans.
During the rally, Planned Parenthood employees donning their organization’s pin and carrying clipboards approached attendees, asking them to sign up for more information.
Last month, Rep. Diane Black, R-TN, introduced the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2017, a one-year moratorium on federal funding to Planned Parenthood, “unless they certify that the affiliates and clinics will not perform, and will not provide any funds to any other entity that performs an abortion.”
The bill would require the funding to go to eligible entities that provide women healthcare services and that do not perform abortions.
According to the legislation, the money will primarily be added to the Community Health Center Program, which receives $235 billion in appropriated funds.
The bill includes exemptions, permitting abortions that are performed in cases of rape, incest or life-threatening complications.
Rep. Steve Pearce, along with 135 other House members, co-sponsored the legislation.
Martinez vowed that Planned Parenthood will “stay open, no matter what.”
Martinez also claimed the “real story” behind defunding the organization is to strip federal funding from patients for birth control, STD checks, exams, pregnancy tests and other services.
He also doubts the services provided by Planned Parenthood could be provided by another organization.
Martinez said Planned Parenthood could survive without federal funding, but claimed it would negatively impact women, especially in areas where Planned Parenthood is one of the only organizations that provide reproductive and sexual healthcare.
Dominic Gonzalez, a senior at UNM, attended the rally to signify his gratitude to New Mexico’s U.S. Congressional Democrats.
Gonzalez said no one likes abortions, but women should have the freedom to do it in safe way, adding that no person should pass judgement on a woman making that decision because they do not understand her reasoning or circumstances.
David Rodriguez, the president for Students for Life, an anti-abortion group at UNM, was concerned to hear about the rally.
Rodriguez encouraged students to “do everything in their power to lovingly reach out” to others to stop them from supporting abortion rights.
“No politician should support abortion,” Rodriguez said. “All politicians, including ourselves, should oppose it and should instead support organizations that offer real, life-affirming help for women who need help raising their child.
Andres Del Aguila is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Andres_DA95.